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Intouch Insight’s Annual Drive-Thru Study Reveals Increased Speed and Decreased Friendliness in QSR Drive-Thrus

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Report measures top quick-serve brands against key customer experience metrics using year-over-year mystery shopping insights

Intouch Insight Ltd. released the findings of its 22nd Annual Drive-Thru Study in partnership with QSR Magazine which examines how ten of the quick-service industry’ biggest players are measuring up to modern consumer expectations for drive-thru performance. The report, produced formerly by SeeLevel HX – now an Intouch Insight brand, features data from over 1,500 drive-thru mystery shops across the country.

“For 22 years, this report has served as an industry benchmark for the top drive-thru brands and trends impacting the industry,” said Laura Livers, Head of Strategic Growth at Intouch Insight.

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As the pandemic wanes and consumers increasingly return to closer contact dining methods, friendly service is ever more critical to customer satisfaction and operational excellence. The research shows that orders placed with friendly staff are 15% more accurate and over three minutes faster than those with unfriendly associates – and these inefficiencies can add up. Based on the average meal cost, unfriendliness can result in over $180,000 in losses annually per store.

But despite having a considerable impact on operations and customer service, friendliness in quick serve restaurant drive-thrus has been steadily declining over time. Perceived friendliness is down 7% from 2019, currently sitting at 72%. In this arena, Chick-fil-A continues to lead in satisfaction with the level of service, tied this year with Carl’s Jr.

“We’ve all heard that a smile goes a long way, and in quick service that certainly rings true. While it stands to logic that happier associates lead to better customer experiences, the true financial and operational impact of unfriendly service is staggering,” said Laura Livers, Head of Strategic Growth at Intouch Insight. “With friendliness having declined in the industry, brands who can crack the code on employee satisfaction and training will be able to drive better customer service with diner experience, order accuracy and speed.”

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Today’s drive-thru customers also have a need for speed, which is being delivered in 2022. The average total time in the drive-thru line is nearly 10 seconds faster compared to last year. Key factors helping to speed things along include pre-sell menu boards (~5 seconds), order accuracy (~49 seconds), and of course, friendliness. This year, Intouch Insight introduced a new leaderboard for Fastest Total Time by Car, which looks at the average total amount of time spent in the drive-thru, divided by the average number of cars in line in order to provide comparable results across brands. Leaders in this category included Chick-fil-A, followed by McDonald’s and then Taco Bell.

The use of suggestive selling is another sorely underutilized tactic among quick serve restaurants. The study shows that this tactic is being used less than half of the time, and with great inconsistency across brands. And although contrary to popular belief, orders are 24 seconds faster with a suggestive sell, dispelling the myth that suggestive selling adds time. Brands who frequently use suggestive selling, like Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s and KFC are also among the top five brands when it comes to total fastest time.

“For 22 years, this report has served as an industry benchmark for the top drive-thru brands and trends impacting the industry,” said Livers, “The drive-thru remains a staple in food service and today’s quick serve restaurants are making huge strides towards greater innovation and convenience in the space. In a world of immediacy, creating an optimal experience with immediate satisfaction keeps customers coming back for more.”

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