A recent study finds fast food service is getting slower

Bigger orders and elaborate menu options have made drive-thru lines slower across the country.
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/ Source: TODAY
By Erica Chayes Wida

If you feel like you've been spending more time sitting in the drive-thru lane lately, it's not just in your head.

According to a recent survey, fast food drive-thrus across the country are getting slower due to a combination of factors including a higher volume of orders and more complex items.

QSR Magazine, a trade publication that covers the quick-service restaurant industry, conducted its annual analysis of popular chains' drive-thru speeds. Its survey clocked how long it took, on average, from the moment someone ordered at the menu board until the food was in hand.

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This year, QSR evaluated drive windows at Arby's, Burger King, Carl's Jr., Dunkin', Hardee's, KFC, McDonald's, Taco Bell and Wendy's.

In 2018, Burger King got its orders out the fastest with an average time of 193 seconds, while McDonald's and Chick-fil-A were the slowest. QSR attributed this mainly to the popularity of both restaurants which often have busy lines.

This year, the average speed for all quick-service chains was 255 seconds — 20 seconds longer than last year's average. The fastest chain was Dunkin' at 217 seconds (just over 3 minutes, 30 seconds). Chick-fil-A was the slowest at 323 seconds (about 5 minutes, 20 seconds).

Despite the slower service, many restaurants have spent the last year implementing changes they say will help improve customer experiences overall.

Earlier this year, McDonald's announced its transition to digital menus in some locations, as well as a shortened late night menu to help overnight employees expedite orders. Chick-fil-A installed iPads to make dine-in experiences more convenient but, according to QSR, the chicken chain still looking for a way to more efficiently utilize technology in its drive-thru lanes.

In 2013, when restaurants like McDonald's and Burger King were just beginning to test out mobile ordering systems, the then-fastest restaurant (Wendy's) clocked in at a zippy 133 seconds in QSR's survey. In 2003, Wendy's was even faster, with an average wait time of just 116 seconds.

One might think that 16 years of technological advancements would have made quick-service chains, well, quicker. But that hasn't been the case.

For faster service at some fast food places, folks might just have to brave the great outdoors and walk up to the counter instead.