The coronavirus pandemic has many of us spending more time in a drive-thru line than ever before. Wait times felt longer because they were. A new study from SeeLevel HX tracked fast-food drive-thru wait times, and 2020 saw a dramatic uptick. But not all drive-true lines are created equal. Some fast-food eaters spent considerably more time waiting than others, depending on their preferred restaurant.

KFC led the other nine eateries included in the study, with customers cruising through its drive-thru it in just 283.3 seconds – or about four-and-a-half minutes. That’s well below the 356.8-second average of the 10 tested brands. On the opposite end was Chick-fil-A, which averaged a 488.8-second (just over eight minutes) wait time. That’s considerably more than KFC and quite an increase over ninth-place Arby’s that averaged a 394.2-second wait time. Fast-food icon McDonald’s placed sixth, coming in just below the average with a 349.3-second wait time. The complete results are here (shown in seconds):

  • KFC – 283.3
  • Taco Bell – 310.2
  • Hardee’s – 321.6
  • Carl’s Jr. 341.6
  • Burger King – 344.3
  • McDonald’s – 349.3
  • Dunkin’ – 351.7
  • Wendy’s – 358.7
  • Arby’s – 394.2
  • Chick-fil-A – 488.8

SeeLevel HX also has the data to confirm 2020’s long wait times. According to the study, six of the tested brands saw their wait times dramatically increase from 2019, while McDonald’s and Taco Bell saw theirs fall. McDonald’s shaved nearly 30 seconds off its wait times, while Taco Bell saved about 10 seconds off its average wait time. KFC and Chick-fil-A saw incremental changes between 2019 and 2020.

Drive-thrus will continue to be busy, with COVID likely permanently changing how many of us go about our day. However, restaurants will learn to adapt and improve those wait times. Longer waits mean the business is serving fewer customers and losing money in the process. But if time is short, and you’re in a hurry, cruising through KFC may be quicker than getting Wendy’s or Chick-fil-A.

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