Study Methodology

The 2011 QSR Drive-Thru Time Study was produced and conducted by Insula Research. The primary objective for this annual study is to evaluate several leading restaurant chains in several categories of drive-thru operations. The categories measured in the study include, but are not limited to: wait time, service time, order accuracy, suggestive sell incidence, exterior appearance assessment, speaker clarity, menuboard appearance and presence of Order Confirmation Board. Data for the study was collected between June 20 and August 5 of 2011. Restaurants were visited between the lunch hours of 11:00 AM and 2:30 PM, and between the dinner hours of 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. A restaurant location could be visited a maximum of two times – once during the lunch period and once during the dinner period. The 2011 study included assessments of seven quick-service restaurant chains. Data was collected across 46 different states in the US, including Alaska and Hawaii.

A sample size selected for each chain was based on the total number of drive-thru units each chain operates. Analysis was performed to set sample sizes which resulted in approximately the same margin of error for each chain included in the study. For this study, the maximum error (i.e. worst case scenario) at a 95% confidence level was targeted at approximately 5.7%.

Category Definitions

Insula collected speed of service metrics in several individual segments. At each point where a vehicle has a potential interaction, researchers collected times. For the consistency, those segments were grouped as they have been in the past.

Wait Time: This measures the time from when the test vehicle joins the back of the drive-thru line to the time when the vehicle stops at the order station/speaker

Service Time: This measures the time from when the vehicle stops at the order station to the time when the entire order is received.

Total Time: This equals the Wait Time plus the Service time, or the entire experience time – from joining the back of the drive-thru line until the entire order, and change, is received.

During each visit, the researcher ordered a main item, a side item, and a drink. One special request was made for each. For example, a field researcher could order a Whopper with no pickles at Burger King, or a taco combo with a request for hot sauce packets at Del Taco. After receiving the order all food and drink items were checked to confirm that the order was received as requested by the researcher. Any food or drink item received that was not exactly as ordered was listed as inaccurate. Similarly, orders were considered to be inaccurate if a requested condiment was not received or if the order failed to contain at least one napkin. Any order that contained one or more inaccuracies was listed as inaccurate.

Speaker Clarity
During each visit, researchers determined the clarity of the speaker interaction. Speakers that had an excessive amount of static, a volume level that was too high or too low, were out of order or simply unclear, were listed as being unacceptable. Researchers also documented restaurants where a language barrier inhibited their ability to effectively communicate order-related information.

Menuboard Appearance
Menuboards were checked for missing panels, damaged faces or frames, handwritten signs, exposed interior lighting, decals or stickers on the face, and general cleanliness. Menuboards were given an acceptable appearance score if they did not contain any of these flaws.

Customer Service Analysis
Since customer service can be a very subjective assessment, several specific actions have been identified that have an impact on a customer’s perception of service levels. Included in this analysis is documentation on several such actions, including whether or not the associate at the pay window thanked the researcher, offered a smile, eye contact, said "please", or more subjectively, had an overall pleasant demeanor.

Pre-Sell Menuboard
For the purposes of this study, a pre-sell menuboard was considered a permanent menuboard that was positioned several feet in front of the speaker or primary menuboard. Temporary signage that advertised one or two products or promotional items were not classified as a pre-sell menuboard.

Order Confirmation Board
Researchers noted information regarding the presence of an Order Confirmation Board (OCB) at each restaurant. In addition, they recorded information regarding the type of board in use (i.e. LED or LCD) and whether the board was a separate fixture or incorporated into the primary menuboard.

Drive Thru, Ordering, Story