Fasten Your Seatbelts: These 5 Fast-Food Drive-Thrus Offer the Fastest Service in 2023, According to New Study

Young Man receiving coffee at drive thru counter., Drive thru and take away for protect covid19.


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Young Man receiving coffee at drive thru counter., Drive thru and take away for protect covid19.

Fast-Food Drive-Thrus, Ranked

In 1948, In-N-Out came up with the most quintessentially American technology: the modern drive-thru. With its intercom ordering system and promise of fast service, the drive-thru successfully tapped into America’s obsession with cars, convenience, and efficiency. 

That culture endures today. Fast-food restaurants are continually trying to improve their drive-thrus. The end goal? Making the process as fast and smooth as possible. But some chains are more successful than others.

Using data from Intouch Insight’s annual drive-thru study, released in partnership with QSR, we’ve made a list of the fastest drive-thrus in the country. We ranked chains by their average total wait time while also including other metrics from the study, which we elaborate on below.


Wait Time: “Amount of time from when the shopper enters the drive-thru line to when they start to place their order.”

Service Time: “Amount of time it took the shopper to place their order until they exit the drive-thru with their food.”

Total Drive-Thru Time: “Total amount of time the shopper spent in the drive-thru. Time starts when shopper enters the drive-thru and ends once they exit with their food.”

Taco Bell Drive Thru
Ethan Miller / Getty

1. The Fastest Fast-Food Drive-Thru: Taco Bell

  • Average Wait Time: 1 minute, 13 seconds
  • Average Service Time: 3:25
  • Average Total Time: 4:38

For truly fast food, head to Taco Bell. The fast-food chain boasts the fastest average service time of the 10 brands tested in Intouch Insight’s study, beating the runner-up by a full 25 seconds. Compared to the slowest fast-food restaurants, wait times weren’t too shabby either, coming in around 10 seconds below the industry average. Put simply, Taco Bell’s drive-thru is the place for hangry consumers with a hankering for a quick bite.

Carl’s Jr. restaurant with a drive thru

2. Carl’s Jr. (Tie)

Average Wait Time: 0:38

Average Service Time: 4:25

Average Total Time: 5:03

This is probably the first time Carl’s Jr. has made it to the top of any list. But hey, we have to give the underdog credit for its best-in-class wait time, which is 40 seconds faster than the industry average. Just be prepared for “suggestive selling” (aka upselling) at Carl’s. According to Intouch Insight’s study, the fast-food chain tried to upsell 88% of drive-thru customers.

Colonel Sanders' image on bucket-shaped sign above KFC franchise

3. KFC (Tie)

  • Average Wait Time: 1:13
  • Average Service Time: 3:50
  • Average Total Time: 5:03

The fact that you can conjure up a bucket of steaming-hot fried chicken without leaving your car is one of the marvels of American consumerism. And at KFC, the entire process takes just five minutes, more than two minutes faster than its fried chicken competitor (Chick-fil-A).

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Original Arby's in Hollywood

4. Arby's

Average Wait Time: 0:50

Average Service Time: 4:29

Average Total Time: 5:19

We don’t have a lot of great things to say about Arby’s. In our review of the sandwich chain’s sliders, we found that only two were worth ordering. But when it comes to the fastest food you can order from the comfort of your car, Arby’s deserves praise. The average wait time is around twice as fast as the industry average, only coming in behind Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. However, the chain struggles with getting orders right, tying with Dunkin’ and Hardee’s for order inaccuracy.

Related: Free Fries, Half-Price Burgers, and More Fast-Food Deals To Grab Right Now

Tim Gray/istockphoto

5. Dunkin’

Average Wait Time: 0:58

Average Service Time: 4:23

Average Total Time: 5:21

Every year, Dunkin’ consistently ranks as one of the fastest fast-food companies around. In 2023, the coffee and doughnut chain continued that trend, performing well in the wait time and food quality categories. The service could be friendlier, however. Dunkin’ lags behind the industry average in the category, earning one of the lowest scores.

Related: Donut Make These Pricey Order Mistakes at Dunkin'


Winners in Other Categories

  • Fastest Total Time by Cars in Line: Chick-fil-A
  • Highest Quality Food: Chick-fil-A
  • Friendliest: Chick-fil-A
  • Most Accurate: Chick-fil-A

If only Chick-fil-A weren’t so popular — the chain had the most crowded drive-thrus on average — then the brand would have dominated. When you divide the total time by the number of cars in line, for example, Chick-fil-A is the clear winner, making it the most efficient drive-thru in the industry. Chick-fil-A also earns the top spot for food quality, friendliness, and order accuracy.

Related: You Can Score a Huge Bag of That Delicious Chick-fil-A Ice for Less Than $2

Taco Bell Cantina in Hollywood, CA
Cheapism / Maxwell Shukuya

The Bottom Line

Consumers in a hurry should choose Taco Bell for their next outing. Not only is the restaurant efficient, but it also benefits from relatively uncrowded drive-thru lines. But for drive-thru quality and friendliness, Chick-fil-A wins handily while also outperforming Taco Bell on a time-per-car basis.

Related: The Taco Bell Breakfast Box Is Our New Favorite Fast Food Deal Hack