McDonald's drive-thrus are speeding up after years of longer and longer waits

McDonald's drive-thrus are speeding up after years of longer and longer waits

McDonald's Drive Thru

AP Photo/Seth Perlman

McDonald's is speeding up its drive-thru service.


McDonald's drive-thru times are getting shorter as the fast-food giant invests in speed.

CEO Steve Easterbrook said McDonald's drive-thru times dropped by 20 seconds over the most recent quarter in a call with investors on Tuesday. In July, Easterbrook had announced a decline in wait times, including a 15-second year-over-year drop in the month of June.

The announcements indicate a reversal of a years-long trend at McDonald's. In 2019, the average drive-thru time at McDonald's was 284 seconds, or almost five minutes, according to QSR Magazine's annual Drive-Thru Performance Study. The figure represented an increase of almost 11 seconds over last year's average time.

Read more: Chick-fil-A's drive-thru service is among the slowest in a new survey - here's how 10 major chains rank


McDonald's has been making serious investments in delivery over the last year, in an effort to reverse the trend.

"We kind of had a white-of-the-eyes conversation at the start of March. And we collectively agreed that we were going to renew some emphasis on the drive-thru service times," Easterbrook said in July. "They've been going the wrong way with most of our markets for three or four years for reasons we can understand, as we've added more to our business, but we knew that wasn't a sustaining trend."

McDonald's has acquired two tech startups - Apprente and Dynamic Yield - intended, in part, to boost the chain's drive-thru business. In late September, the company announced a new, optional program intended to encourage certain franchisees to upgrade their drive-thrus, according to documents viewed by Business Insider.

However, much of the chain's efforts to boost drive-thru times have been behind the scenes.

Earlier this year, McDonald's debuted an incentive program that pits locations against each other as they compete for the fastest service times. The company is also rolling out new technology and tools to help workers understand what is slowing down drive-thrus.


The chain is also working to simplify menus, speeding up service in drive-thrus and more generally. McDonald's cut expensive Signature Crafted Recipes burgers and sandwiches from the menu and slashed items from its late-night menu. Franchisees can now decide which menu items to include on the chain's all-day breakfast menu.

Easterbrook said on Tuesday that the menu simplification efforts are contributing to speedier drive-thrus and better-run restaurants, while also indicated there is "going to be a little bit of a short-term resistance" to the changes.