Demand for drive-thru service at fast-food chains has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing customers to wait longer to get their food. When restaurants across the country were forced to close down their indoor dining options, many fast-food joints managed to stay in business by keeping their drive-thru lanes open. According to NBC News, drive-thru visits increased by 26 percent in April, May, and June, while Taco Bell reported that an additional 4.8 million customers used their drive-thru lanes during the second quarter.
All the extra cars put a strain on the restaurants, which resulted in a 29.8-second increase in wait times, according to an annual study conducted by SeeLevel HX. The main reason for the increased wait was due to longer lines, and not slower service.
"Surprisingly, service time, the time from placing an order to picking up, was actually 16.9 seconds faster this year at 238.1 seconds compared to 255 seconds in 2019."
According to SeeLevel HX, the increased wait times can cause a typical brand to lose more than $64 million annually per 2,000 stores.
"The pandemic is continuing to have a massive impact on [quick service restaurants] from a spike in traffic and stricter safety standards and protocols to a substantial increase in staffing turnover and training, so I'm not surprised to see a dip in speed of service," said Lisa van Kesteren, SeeLevel HX CEO. "Still, every second has a substantial impact on the bottom line. And as more restaurants rely on the drive-thru for the majority of their revenue during this pandemic, and likely long term, it's never been more critical to focus on improving wait time by investing in technology like menu boards and mobile to stay competitive."
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