Chick-fil-A has some of the longest wait times at its drive-thru, but it doesn’t seem to be deterring customers

Chick fil a drive thru
Chick-fil-A’s long wait times don’t deter customers. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
  • Chick-fil-A’s average wait time topped nine minutes in QSR’s annual drive-thru study.
  • The chain also got top marks for accuracy and customer service.
  • Drive-thrus have become more important than ever in fast food.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chick-fil-A stood out in nearly every category in the 2021 QSR drive-thru study. The chicken chain had the longest wait time out of the 10 quick-service chains tested at 541 seconds, or about nine minutes, but it also beat out its competitors in the accuracy and customer service categories.

Chick-fil-A’s drive-thru wait times are getting longer. In 2019, the average speed was 322.98 seconds, just over five minutes, and in 2020 the wait was 488.8 seconds, about eight minutes. Waits have nearly doubled since 2019, but customers don’t seem to care. The chain was the only business to get a 100% accuracy rating in the same survey, and also got the top spot for customer service.

Chick-fil-A declined to comment on this study or drive-thru wait times.

Long waits at Chick-fil-A are unsurprising. According to the survey, Chick-fil-A locations had an average of four cars waiting in line at any given time, well above the average of 2.2 cars at McDonald’s, the next highest. These wait times are a symptom of Chick-fil-A’s massive success; the average Chick-fil-A store does over $US4.5 ($AU6) million in annual sales, compared to the average McDonald’s store with $US2.9 ($AU4) million.

The chain also takes measures to make drive-thrus efficient and running smoothly. Chick-fil-A has installed double drive-thru lanes at some locations, with plans to continue adding more. It also has workers take customers’ orders on tablets at their cars before they reach windows, dividing the drive-thru into zones instead of set locations, which reduces bottlenecks.

Drive-thrus have been key to the survival of fast-food chains throughout the pandemic of the last year and a half. Fast food and fast-casual brands across the country have optimized drive-thrus over the last year, many of them making improvements pioneered by Chick-fil-A. Drive-thru orders have grown across the fast-food industry since the pandemic closed many dining rooms.

With consumers eating more fast food than ever, speed is no longer the defining metric of a drive-thru’s success, and Chick-fil-A’s continued strength proves it.

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