To Drive-Thru, or Not Drive-Thru?

To drive-thru, or not drive-thru, that is certainly the question!

While credit for the first drive-thru business in the US goes to The Grand National Bank in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1930, Sheldon “Red” Chaney, operator of Red’s Giant Hamburger in Springfield, Missouri, on famous Route 66, is credited with opening the first successful restaurant operated drive-thru in 1947.  Don’t ask me how the drive-thru phenomenon occurred in the Show Me state not once, but twice.  I thought Missourians were skeptics, and would want to see it, touch it, taste it, before driving off into the Midwest sunset.  Guess not.

Nothing has changed my life more in the past 20 years than the drive-thru window.  And based on a recent Omnibus Study from Ipsos Public Affairs titled What’s Easier Than The Drive-Thru Lane?, I dare say 99.9% of Millennials with their over-sized Range Rovers with 3.75 kids, and 1.5 dogs barking away, would wholeheartedly agree with MOI!

On a daily basis I rumble, bumble, stumble up to the feed-bag-coffee shop-bank-dry cleaners drive-thru, with 3 monstrous children screeching at full stentorian pitch as I crank Pearl Jam’s Rearviewmirror.  And as if without hesitation, I turn my head ever so slightly to the left to say, “Ola mon frere…  May I place an order-pickup-deposit avec vous?”

Simplicity, ease of doing business, no need to hassle with parking, young kids and pets in the car, or long lines once you get inside are all reasons why I take advantage of the drive-thru.  We asked “What locations do you currently conduct business primarily using drive-thru?”  Car wash (80%) led all businesses, followed by fast food (41%), banks (33%), and coffee shops (30%).

But even with the obvious convenience afforded by the drive-thru, everything isn’t all good when you hop on the AFX track and slide on up to the window.  How maddening is it when you get plopped behind the family of 17 who just ordered the left hand side of the menu, a few ice cream fribble-dribbles, and a myriad of coffee concoctions that only an experienced barista could handle?  Can you say drive-thru rage?  Our study showed 76% believe the drive-thru should be for small, medium, or simple transactions, another half (50%) think the drive-thru isn’t usually correct, while 41% get frustrated using the drive-thru.

Meanwhile the glass half-full crowd see more upsides than downsides, with 72% preferring a business that offers in-store and drive-thru options, 53% like being able to stay in the car, and 14%  would not use the business if it did not offer a drive-thru.

Well what’s the best solution for Mom & Pop Millennials, or the local lumberjack Bob?  How about sliding some steroid induced smartphone play into the mix to speed these everyday activities up even more?  Although the majority of customers say they would wait to arrive at a drive-thru, many young adults (18 – 34 years old) and parents would be willing to pre-order on a smartphone for: retail shopping (59% / 52%), the pharmacy (55% / 50%), the library (50% / 46%), and fast food (41% / 38%).

For good and bad, the drive-thru has changed my life and so many others over the past 40 years, when McDonald’s opened its first drive-thru in 1975 in Sierra Vista, Arizona.  If I had to vote for keeping the drive-thru, or canning it, I would keep it, even with its ills.  But let’s face it, the time for innovation and evolution is upon us, and needs to smack into this institution soon.  Certainly the folks from Redmond, Cupertino, and Silicon Valley, will have a say in how this unfolds, as technology swallows us up like a delicious drive-thru burger loaded with all the fixings.