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Here's the fast-food restaurant with the slowest drive-thru

Chick-fil-A was recently named America's favorite fast-food restaurant, but the chain has just topped a decidedly less flattering list.

According to industry publication QSR magazine's Drive-thru Report, Chick-fil-A has the slowest drive-thru time of 10 popular restaurants, at 325 seconds, or about 5 1/2 minutes, on average. Wendy's, whose founder Dave Thomas is credited with pioneering the drive-thru concept, was also among the slowest of the restaurants surveyed at 275 seconds, or almost 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, the fast-food restaurant known for its Mexican pizzas and chalupas has the fastest drive-thru time. Taco Bell completes customer drive-thru orders in 222 seconds, or just over 3 1/2 minutes, according to the report. Taco Bell speeds are high because the company "focused on streamlining the ordering process to alleviate bottlenecks and advancing our back of house technology to simplify order fulfillment," a spokesperson said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. 

One reason the drive-thru line at Chick-fil-A's is slower is that the restaurant tends to have a higher volume of cars in drive-thru than other fast-food chains, the report found. Another reason is that Chick-fil-A workers approach the drive-thru with a different goal in mind, Matt Abercrombie, the chain's senior director of service and hospitality, told QSR.

"[W]e know in the drive-thru the guest wants speed and accuracy, but they don't want to feel rushed," Abercrombie said in the report, which drew its conclusions from a survey of 1,000 customers who visited a fast food restaurant last month.

Chick-fil-A ranked America's favorite fast food restaurant — again 01:55

 Wendy's didn't respond to a request for comment Monday. Its chief operations officer Deepak Ajmani told QSR that the company is upgrading its digital order-taking process, which includes placing orders on Wendy's mobile app and self-service kiosks in the lobby. 

"We still focus on car counts and speed of service, but accuracy and taste of food as well as overall customer satisfaction and likelihood to return are also crucial indicators," he told the outlet.

Wendy's drive-thru fills customer orders accurately 79% of the time, placing it last among other popular fast-food joints in the report. Arby's topped that list at 89%. 

Decades ago, drive-thrus were an afterthought in the fast-food industry because most customers preferred to order and often dine at the restaurant. But in recent years, the drive-thru has grown in importance. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, drive-thrus became a vital asset as restaurants closed their lobbies in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In April, May and June of 2020, drive-thru visits accounted for 42% of all fast-food restaurant visits, according to market research firm NPD Group. 

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