Since 1998 researchers across the country have undertaken thousands of drive-thru mystery shops each year with one goal in mind: to establish how quick-service restaurant chains are performing in the all-important drive-thru operation. It’s now that time of year again, as research for the study, which is produced by QSR magazine and Insula Research, begins in May.

The Drive-Thru Performance Study evaluates drive-thru operations for a benchmark group of restaurant chains, including Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Krystal, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s. These chains were chosen as benchmarks for their overall strong performance since the study began in 1998. In addition, the group includes a seventh chain that changes from year to year; in 2012 that chain is Bojangles’.

Restaurant chains that are not part of the benchmark group can also choose to be evaluated in the study. These chains will move into the benchmark group if they are among the top six overall performers.

“The benefit of participating in the study is primarily that restaurant chains can understand how their drive-thru performance compares to the benchmark group, using the exact same criteria,” says Brian Baker, president of Insula Research. “Everyone has their own internal data—but they don’t necessarily have their competitors’ data.”

QSR magazine will publish top-line results of the study for the benchmark group in its October 2012 issue. Results published include average service time, order accuracy, service pace, customer service, service attributes, exterior appearance, awning presence, order confirmation board presence, and speaker clarity.

Researchers for the study also collect extensive data beyond what is published in the magazine. This data includes:

  • Availability of Wi-Fi
  • Suggestive Sell Attributes
  • Drive-Thru Position
  • Visibility of Dumpsters
  • Cleanliness of Menuboard
  • Cleanliness of Temporary Signage
  • Impact of Pre-Sell Menu on Timing
  • Presence of Pre-Sell Menuboard
  • Presence of Primary Menuboard
  • Order Inaccuracies
  • Order Confirmation Board Corrections

Data is analyzed across different factors, such as region, chain, daypart, number of vehicles in line, and the number of stations in use. This allows for further insight into the impact of various attributes.

“It’s really an impressive array of data,” says Greg Sanders, group publisher of Food News Media, which publishes QSR magazine. “We believe access to this information can help restaurant chains continue the kind of improvement in drive-thru operations the study has always fostered.”

For more information, contact Greg Sanders at or AJ Fox at

Drive Thru, News, Bojangles, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Krystal, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's