Does Drive-Thru Speed of Service Matter Anymore?

drive thru performance study

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read “drive-thru efficiency and performance”? Chances are, speed of service is one of your first thoughts.

But what if I told you speed of service doesn’t matter as much anymore?

Yes, you read that correctly. According to the 2018 QSR Drive-Thru Study – a study conducted by SeeLevel HX in partnership with QSR Magazine for 18 years – consumers are becoming more concerned about service times, and are okay with a little longer wait time. In fact, the QSR with the slowest speed of service ranked second in the QSR study. Second! And it is well on its way to becoming the third largest QSR in 2019.

So, if speed of service shouldn’t be your primary focus in the drive-thru, what should? What is shifting consumer expectations and strengthening market share for QSRs? Here are three things to keep in mind for better drive-thru performance.


1. Deliver a great customer experience.

Customer expectations have heightened drastically over the last few years. People expect to be entertained and treated well anytime they interact with a company in any industry. When it comes to the drive-thru, consider the overall customer experience your store provides. Is it consistent with your in-store experience? What about your online experience? Ensure your brand reputation and image is consistent across all customer touchpoints.


2. Prioritize accuracy over speed.

This tip can be applied to many facets of life, but when it comes to quick service restaurants and fast casual restaurants, it couldn’t be truer. Yes, customers visit your locations for fast food on the go, so speed is important. But are you truly serving anyone if your quick service leads to inaccurate orders costing your location money and upsetting customers?

If you have ever gone through the drive-thru in a rush to get somewhere and realized half-way there that your burger was meatless, or your healthy side item was mistaken for a greasy one, then you understand the frustration I’m am referring to. Keep your team focused on order accuracy and the service you provide, then gain bonus points for doing so in a speedy manner.

dirve-thru customer experience

3. Shift your strategy based on how busy you are.

Providing an excellent customer experience should never be in question. But the way in which you provide customer service can. During slow hours of the day, train employees to focus on suggestive selling and going the extra mile. Then, as the drive-thru speeds up, show employees how to keep the same level of service in a more time-efficient manner. Can you ensure order accuracy while speeding up operations? Are you scheduling more team members during busy hours to assist customers outside? Determine what matters most to your customers with services like mystery shopping and develop a customer service strategy to match.



The 2018 QSR Drive-Thru Study led to controversial data challenging QSRs and fast casual restaurants across the globe. Speed of service will always hold weight in the industry, but to what extent? Customer expectations based on the mystery shopping services conducted by SeeLevel HX for the 2018 study indicate quality of service is perhaps more imperative than speedy delivery.

If you haven’t already, download the full results to the 2018 QSR Drive-Thru Study to learn more and take a closer look at your operational processes with SeeLevel HX. We have over 650,000 mystery shoppers across the nation ready to evaluate your organization in order to support your business objectives. Schedule a free consultation with our strategy team today for more information.