What Customers Want from the Drive Thru of Tomorrow

1 of 24
Cava
A Cava restaurant customer holds a bowl of food and a drink in the car.

Cava

The pandemic has expedited technological innovations for the restaurant industry, including in the drive thru. Tools that once seemed like future fantasies—like mobile ordering and AI—are suddenly becoming commonplace.

Mobile ordering, in particular, has completely changed the relationship between the customer and the restaurant brand, especially during the pandemic. But not everybody is whole-heartedly embracing mobile solutions for off-premises dining.

Which ordering models will take on added frequency? Which are considered most accurate?

Here’s what consumers think about these opportunities in general, and how much they anticipate using mobile ordering solutions to fulfill their quick-service purchases, from QSR’s® 2020 Drive-Thru Study.

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

AMERICA PICKS ITS FAVORITE DRIVE-THRU CHAIN

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.

2 of 24
Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A drive thru window

With the surge in drive-thru business due to the pandemic, brands like Chick-fil-A are doubling down on safe, efficient service

Chick-fil-A

What customers want from drive-thru tech today and into the future

Artificial intelligence helping make decisions when placing order

Overall: 14 percent

Gen Z: 21 percent

Millennials: 23 percent

Gen X: 14 percent

Boomers: 6 percent

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

3 of 24
Zaxby's
Zaxby's employee hands a customer food through the drive thru.
Zaxby's

More extensive digital signage

Overall: 20 percent

Gen Z: 7 percent

Millennials: 16 percent

Gen X: 20 percent

Boomers: 25 percent

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

4 of 24
McDonald's
A McDonald's employee puts two bags of food on a counter.

McDonald's

Ordering system that remembers my last order

Overall: 24 percent

Gen Z: 28 percent

Millennials: 26 percent

Gen X: 25 percent

Boomers: 21 percent

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

5 of 24
Starbucks
Starbucks drive thru.
Starbucks

Ordering system that remembers me and my preferences

Overall: 30 percent

Gen Z: 21 percent

Millennials: 37 percent

Gen X: 32 percent

Boomers: 22 percent

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

6 of 24
Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A drive thru employee.
Chick-fil-A

Carhops, placing order from car

Overall: 36 percent

Gen Z: 28 percent

Millennials: 39 percent

Gen X: 31 percent

Boomers: 38 percent

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

7 of 24
Sonic Drive-In
Sonic Drive-In exterior of new design.
Sonic Drive-In

Automated technology detecting car arrival, pre-order brought to car

Overall: 36 percent

Gen Z: 31 percent

Millennials: 43 percent

Gen X: 35 percent

Boomers: 31 percent

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

8 of 24
Qdoba
Mobile in-store pickup rendering for Qdoba.
Qdoba

Mobile ordering options

Overall: 38 percent

Gen Z: 34 percent

Millennials: 42 percent

Gen X: 41 percent

Boomers: 32 percent

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

9 of 24
Starbucks
Starbucks mobile curbside.
Starbucks

Contactless payment options

Overall: 42 percent

Gen Z: 48 percent

Millennials: 43 percent

Gen X: 41 percent

Boomers: 41 percent

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

10 of 24
Dunkin'

Dunkin'

Mobile ordering preferences (how much guests expect to use the following via mobile)

Third-party delivery

Very likely: 32 percent

Not sure: 26 percent

Not likely: 42 percent

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

11 of 24
Portillo's
Portillo's
Portillo's

Direct delivery

Very likely: 41 percent

Not sure: 28 percent

Not likely: 32 percent

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

12 of 24
Shake Shack
Shake Shack customer getting food in their car.
Shake Shack

Curbside pickup

Very likely: 45 percent

Not sure: 28 percent

Not likely: 27 percent

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

13 of 24
Shake Shack
Shake Shack customer eat inside a car.
Shake Shack

Fast-casual drive-thru

Very likely: 45 percent

Not sure: 29 percent

Not likely: 26 percent

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

14 of 24
Wendy's
Wendy's exterior restaurant.
Wendy's

Quick-serve drive thru

Very likely: 50 percent

Not sure: 24 percent

Not likely: 26 percent

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

15 of 24
Chipotle
Customers gather around to eat Chipotle.

Delivery is the fastest-growing part of Chipotle's digital platform.

Chipotle

Future ordering frequency (how guests anticipate their visit frequency in drive thru, curbside pickup, and delivery to change in the next 12 months)

Third-party delivery

More frequently: 13 percent

Same: 34 percent

Less frequently: 17 percent

Not applicable: 36 percent

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

16 of 24
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle food being delivered

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Direct delivery

More frequently: 16 percent

Same: 49 percent

Less frequently: 13 percent

Not applicable: 21 percent

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

17 of 24
Shake Shack
Shake Shack signage for curbside.
Shake Shack

Fast-casual drive thru

More frequently: 18 percent

Same: 63 percent

Less frequently: 12 percent

Not applicable: 7 percent

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

18 of 24
Arby's

Arby's

Quick-serve drive thru

More frequently: 21 percent

Same: 69 percent

Less frequently: 10 percent

Not applicable: 0 percent

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

19 of 24
CURBSIDE INC.

CURBSIDE INC.

Curbside pickup

More frequently: 22 percent

Same: 45 percent

Less frequently: 15 percent

Not applicable: 17 percent

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

20 of 24
istock
A restaurant employee carrying a brown paper bag of food.
istock

How accurate are these staples and newcomers?

Third-party delivery

Almost always accurate: 29 percent

Occasional mistakes: 25 percent

Frequently inaccurate: 6 percent

Not applicable: 41 percent

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

21 of 24
Zebra Projects LTD
Shake Shack curbside rendering.
Zebra Projects LTD

Curbside pickup

Almost always accurate: 46 percent

Occasional mistakes: 26 percent

Frequently inaccurate: 5 percent

Not applicable: 23 percent

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

22 of 24
Jimmy John's

Jimmy John's

Direct delivery

Almost always accurate: 47 percent

Occasional mistakes: 24 percent

Frequently inaccurate: 4 percent

Not applicable: 25 percent

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

23 of 24
Taco John's
Taco John's drive thru.
Taco John's

Quick-service drive thru

Almost always accurate: 49 percent

Occasional mistakes: 42 percent

Frequently inaccurate: 9 percent

Not applicable: 1 percent

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

24 of 24
The Howard Company
Scooter's Coffee THE HOWARD COMPANY
The Howard Company

Fast-casual drive thru

Almost always accurate: 50 percent

Occasional mistakes: 31 percent

Frequently inaccurate: 5 percent

Not applicable: 14 percent

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