The 17 Best Fast-Food Drive Thrus, Ranked by Customers

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Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A drive thru employee.
Chick-fil-A

The race is on

In September, The NPD Group dropped a staggering figure. While no surprise drive-thru preference gained momentum during COVID-19, as customers sought not just convenience, but personal safety as well, the category represented 42 percent of all restaurant visits in the April, May, and June quarter. Even in July, as restaurants started to reopen, drive-thru occasions hiked 13 percent, year-over-year—the highest visit increase among the options available to consumers: on-premises, carry-out, and delivery.

In other terms, as much as fresh revenue avenues emerged during COVID-19, like curbside and heightened delivery, a fast-food classic remains entrenched among core and new consumers. And the pandemic only strengthened that.

READ MORE: As COVID continues, restaurants race to the drive thru

Will this linger in a post-virus world? Restaurants are counting on it. Some of the category’s most prominent players—from Chipotle to Starbucks—are investing heavy in drive-thru growth as they consider a lighter real-estate market in COVID-19’s wake. A rush away from city centers to suburban markets where brands can capitalize on willing landlords and a shift in customer behavior that’s likely to stick for some time. This is accelerating in a multitude of ways, from mobile-only order-ahead pickup windows (like Chipotle’s Chipotlanes) to outside-the-box prototypes, such as the elevated dining room, conveyor belt model unveiled by Burger King in September. It includes fast casuals, too. Noodles & Company, Newk’s Eatery, and Shake Shack are among the chains putting stock in off-premises-forward designs as they plot growth.

No matter how you approach it, one of sector’s historic differentiators is only going to take on deeper standing as guests seek contactless service and the race to convenience—a reality pre-COVID-19—finds an even more welcoming audience.

But which chains are pulling forward? QSR’s® 2020 Drive-Thru study examined the traits consumers are searching for and which brands are leading the pack today.

Here are the 17 top drive-thru restaurants in the country, as picked by customers.

CHECK OUT LAST YEAR’S QSR® DRIVE-THRU STUDY

Methodology: The FoodserviceResults team conducted a comprehensive, nationally representative survey of drive-thru consumers in the U.S. using an online survey sample. Participants in the research were screened for frequency of use as well as numerous demographic characteristics in order to ensure that the respondent base was reflective of the U.S. drive-thru market. Leveraging insights from numerous industry experts, the finalized survey was completed among 1,007 drive-thru consumers during fieldwork. To ensure a relevant respondent base was achieved, all participants were screened to include those who had at least one drive-thru occasion in the last 30 days. An extensive cross tabulation of the respondent sample data was conducted in order to identify major trends, demographic/behavioral themes, and other nuances in the data.

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Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A drive-thru employee washing their hands.
Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A

Overall experience: 93

Speed of service: 93

Friendliness of staff: 94

Cleanliness and sanitation: 93

Menu item availability: 92

Quality of menu items ordered: 94

Order accuracy: 95

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Arby's

Arby's

Arby’s

Overall experience: 91

Speed of service: 91

Friendliness of staff: 87

Cleanliness and sanitation: 82

Menu item availability: 93

Quality of menu items ordered: 92

Order accuracy: 91

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Culver's
Culver's burger

Culver's

Culver’s

Overall experience: 91

Speed of service: 91

Friendliness of staff: 90

Cleanliness and sanitation: 88

Menu item availability: 89

Quality of menu items ordered: 90

Order accuracy: 89

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Panera Bread

Panera Bread

Panera Bread

Overall experience: 91

Speed of service: 89

Friendliness of staff: 92

Cleanliness and sanitation: 93

Menu item availability: 91

Quality of menu items ordered: 92

Order accuracy: 91

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Dunkin'

Dunkin'

Dunkin’

Overall experience: 90

Speed of service: 89

Friendliness of staff: 89

Cleanliness and sanitation: 88

Menu item availability: 87

Quality of menu items ordered: 88

Order accuracy: 87

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Wendy's
Wendy's exterior restaurant.
Wendy's

Wendy’s

Overall experience: 90

Speed of service: 90

Friendliness of staff: 86

Cleanliness and sanitation: 84

Menu item availability: 90

Quality of menu items ordered: 91

Order accuracy: 90

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Starbucks
Cup of Starbucks coffee on a table.

Starbucks

Starbucks

Overall experience: 89

Speed of service: 87

Friendliness of staff: 90

Cleanliness and sanitation: 90

Menu item availability: 88

Quality of menu items ordered: 91

Order accuracy: 93

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Hardee's
Hardee's new Southwestern biscuit and burrito.

Hardee's

Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr.

Overall experience: 89

Speed of service: 88

Friendliness of staff: 86

Cleanliness and sanitation: 84

Menu item availability: 89

Quality of menu items ordered: 87

Order accuracy: 90

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen

Overall experience: 89

Speed of service: 89

Friendliness of staff: 87

Cleanliness and sanitation: 82

Menu item availability: 88

Quality of menu items ordered: 89

Order accuracy: 92

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Burger King
Burger King restaurant of the future rendering.
Burger King

Burger King

Overall experience: 87

Speed of service: 86

Friendliness of staff: 82

Cleanliness and sanitation: 76

Menu item availability: 88

Quality of menu items ordered: 88

Order accuracy: 88

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Checkers & Rally's
Checkers Hero
Checkers & Rally's

Checkers/Rally’s

Overall experience: 86

Speed of service: 86

Friendliness of staff: 76

Cleanliness and sanitation: 78

Menu item availability: 86

Quality of menu items ordered: 89

Order accuracy: 84

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Taco Bell

Taco Bell

Taco Bell

Overall experience: 86

Speed of service: 86

Friendliness of staff: 85

Cleanliness and sanitation: 83

Menu item availability: 88

Quality of menu items ordered: 84

Order accuracy: 88

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Wikimedia Commons/Billy Hathorn
Exterior of a Jack in the Box restaurant.
Wikimedia Commons/Billy Hathorn

Jack in the Box

Overall experience: 84

Speed of service: 84

Friendliness of staff: 84

Cleanliness and sanitation: 81

Menu item availability: 88

Quality of menu items ordered: 84

Order accuracy: 84

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Bojangles'

Bojangles'

Bojangles

Overall experience: 83

Speed of service: 85

Friendliness of staff: 81

Cleanliness and sanitation: 76

Menu item availability: 85

Quality of menu items ordered: 89

Order accuracy: 89

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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McDonald's
A McDonald's employee puts two bags of food on a counter.

McDonald's

McDonald’s

Overall experience: 83

Speed of service: 85

Friendliness of staff: 82

Cleanliness and sanitation: 81

Menu item availability: 84

Quality of menu items ordered: 85

Order accuracy: 84

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Yum! Brands
KFC bucket of chicken.
Yum! Brands

KFC

Overall experience: 82

Speed of service: 81

Friendliness of staff: 82

Cleanliness and sanitation: 79

Menu item availability: 83

Quality of menu items ordered: 84

Order accuracy: 83

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.

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Popeyes
Popeyes exterior restaurant image.
Popeyes

Popeyes

Overall experience: 80

Speed of service: 80

Friendliness of staff: 80

Cleanliness and sanitation: 78

Menu item availability: 82

Quality of menu items ordered: 85

Order accuracy: 85

See the entire 2020 QSR® Drive-Thru Study here.