(NEXSTAR) – If you’re going through a fast food drive-thru, you probably have some expectations: The food will come fast, the service will be super, and the food will be exactly as you ordered it.
A new survey shows some fast food chains are better at delivering on those promises than others.
Intouch Insight has released its annual drive-thru study, which analyzes the top fast food chains across multiple categories: order accuracy, speed, food quality, suggestive selling, and level of satisfaction. This year, they conducted nearly 1,500 drive-thru visits at 10 chains nationwide: Arby’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’, Hardee’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s.
Overall, Intouch Insight’s analysis found the fast food giants are getting better in multiple categories. They’re faster than last year, with the average total ordering time dropping 29 seconds. The average number of cars you’ll find in line has dipped from 2.76 to 1.27. More customers are receiving correct orders (though the average accuracy score increased by just 1% to 86%). Customer satisfaction also saw a 1% increase over last year to 90%.
Like it did last year, Chick-fil-A stole the show in multiple categories, but other chains aren’t far behind.
The “Eat Mor Chikin” chain again failed to land in the top five for one of the most crucial aspects of a drive-thru: speed. It reigned supreme in Intouch Insight’s 2021 report, beating out McDonald’s for the fastest total drive-thru time — the time from when the customer gets in line to when they leave with their food. Last year, KFC took the top spot. This year, it’s Taco Bell.
That was about the only category Chick-fil-A didn’t excel in.
It had the fastest total time based on the number of cars in line, a status it held last year. McDonald’s ranked second, followed by Wendy’s, which had fallen from the top five in 2022. According to Intouch Insight, while Carl’s Jr. had the quickest average wait time, Chick-fil-A cut its time by the largest margin between 2022 and 2023, dropping from 183.67 seconds to 123.72 seconds.
Based on Intouch Insight’s report, you’ll find the fastest service at Taco Bell, where customers spent 278.84 seconds (or just shy of five minutes) from start to finish. That was followed by Carl’s Jr. at 303.74 seconds and KFC at 303.95 seconds. Chick-fil-A had the longest time at 436.09 seconds, or nearly seven and a half minutes.
Once you get your order, you do, of course, want it to be correct. When it came to order accuracy, Chick-fil-A regained the top spot, a seat it lost to Arby’s and McDonald’s last year. The chain aced 92% of orders, according to the survey, followed by Burger King, which was accurate 90% of the time. The worst chain for order accuracy? It was a three-way tie between Arby’s, Dunkin, and Hardee’s, all with accuracy levels of 82%.
One-third of the incorrect orders were drinks having ice in them despite the order asking for no ice, according to Intouch Insight.
Chick-fil-A’s reign continued when it came to food quality, where the study found 98% said their main entrees tasted as expected. It was followed closely by fellow chicken chain KFC, who reported roughly the same result. All 10 chains surveyed scored above 90% in this category, but Burger King and Carl’s Jr. had the lowest scores at 95%.
Chick-fil-A also stands as the best brand when it comes to satisfaction, again maintaining its title for another year with a score of 97%. Only three other chains scored at or above 90%: Taco Bell (95%), Arby’s (93%), and Wendy’s (90%). Burger King had the lowest score at 85%.
When customers were asked if service was friendly, neutral, or not friendly, Chick-fil-A was the only chain that had a friendliness score higher than 90% and a “not friendly” score of 0%. In the same category, 64% said service at McDonald’s was friendly — 33% said it was neutral. Carl’s Jr. had the highest “not friendly” score at 7%.
The results of Intouch Insight’s study — and Chick-fil-A’s overall dominance — may not come as a surprise to the brand’s fans. The Atlanta-based chain ranked as America’s favorite fast food chain for the ninth straight year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. At the bottom of that report was McDonald’s, which failed to rank in the top spot of any of the categories Intouch Insight reviewed.
McDonald’s did, however, see some survey success at its “Innovation Location” just outside Fort Worth, Texas. Intouch Insight analyzed both that location and the Taco Bell Defy in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. They are prototype locations, featuring test features like the Order Ahead Lane, which prompts workers at the McDonald’s location to start preparing your order as you get closer to the restaurant, and a four-lane drive-thru with digital check-in screens for mobile orders at the Taco Bell Defy.
Those efforts to speed up the drive-thru have worked: Intouch Insight found the locations outperformed their chains and the study’s average for service time. Both locations were one minute faster, on average, than their traditional counterparts. Customers also reported higher satisfaction with the level of service at the innovation locations than at traditional sites.