Fast food drive-thrus just got slower…again

Fast food drive-thrus are slowing down

Ticktock. It's not just your imagination: Fast food drive-thrus are getting slower, even as they get more accurate.

In an annual survey out Monday, QSR magazine found the average service speed has slowed to 226.3 seconds, up from 221.9 seconds a year ago and 203.3 seconds two years ago as restaurants serve more complicated dishes.

Still, there's a silver lining for fast food diners. Although service is taking longer, order accuracy is up so customers are getting what they paid for more often. Average order accuracy rose to 90 percent from 88.8 percent last year and 87.2 percent two years before.

For the study, QSR and SeeLevel HX looked at 15 of the nation's biggest restaurant chains — 11 fast food brands and four fast-casual chains — and timed orders at more than 1,900 of these restaurants' locations to determine average service time and order accuracy.

"When the restaurants look at the drive-thru, they're really prioritizing accuracy and the experience over simply getting them out quickly," said Sam Oches, QSR's editor, in a phone interview.

"They recognize that customers are more angry with rude service or inaccurate service, than slower speed of service," he said.

Among fast food giants, service times ranged widely — from about 169 seconds at burger chain Wendy's to just under five minutes at Starbucks — a wait that might be tough to swallow for some under-caffeinated customers.

"When you're talking about a chain that's primarily coffee and baked goods, how long does that take?" Oches said.

Rival Dunkin' Donuts clocked in nearly two minutes faster at 181 seconds.

"I was really, really surprised to see Starbucks as the slowest — and not just the slowest — but by far the slowest," Oches said.

Despite the slowdown, the company executives that QSR has spoken with did not seem concerned about the trend, adding they were comfortable with their service times, Oches said.

"This is not a panic moment," he said.