Is Drive-Through Service At McDonald’s Becoming Slower?

Is Drive-Through Service At McDonald’s Becoming Slower?
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A recent US study suggests that drive-through service at McDonald’s is becoming slower. Has the same thing happened in Australia?

Business Insider reports on a study by QSR Magazine which found that the average time to complete an order was 189.5 seconds — the slowest recorded in 15 years, and nine seconds longer than the industry average. An expanded menu is blamed for the change.

Directly comparing the US experience to Australia needs to be done with caution. In Australia, all McDonald’s outlets produce food to order, so the experience is bound to be a little slower. The menu is also quite different to that offered in the US.

On the other hand, workers in an Australian McDonald’s are paid considerably better than their US counterparts, which might improve service. And a sense of perspective counts: waiting a little over three minutes for food to be served is hardly suffering.

But with that in mind, we’re curious: have you noticed any change in how fast you get your Maccas at drive-through? Tell us your experience, good or bad, in the comments.

McDonald’s Drive-Thrus Are Getting Slower [Business Insider]


  • As an unfortunate regular – I have to say yes. I’m consistently shoved into the waiting bay – sometimes trying to share it with up to 3 other cars.

    I’d go one step further and say that their packing habits have deteriorated too. McDonald’s has a guidelines for packing bags but I’m finding more and more staff are over filling bags – and this has forced me on a few occasions to head back into the store and have them re-fill the order without it going everywhere.

    • 100% agree on both. Also as an unfortunate (i love it but my waist line doesnt) regular the wait times are becoming longer and the care is becoming less and less evident. So sick of getting my fries upside down in my bag or missing out on sauce.
      First world problems yes….but still….annoying.

      • omg! Missing out on sauce… I swear… its probably 50% or more that they forget the sauce!!!
        Don’t they understand that their nuggets are simply a sauce delivery vehicle? What am I using them for if there is no sauce?

  • Does Maccas still have the “maximum 5 minute from ordering, or you get a free Big Mac on your next visit” Rule?

    • Doubt it…they would be running out of Big Macs like crazy!

      I had to wait in the “Bay of Eternal Waiting” for 15mins to get 2 bacon and egg muffins as part of their Sunrise Meal (2 bacon egg muffins, 1 hash brown and a coffee).

  • What would happen if you refuse to move into the waiting bays? I go through in the morning, and even if there are no cars behind me they still get me to move to a waiting bay, I’ve often been tempted to say “no, I’m fine here thanks” and see what happens, I’m worried some casual staffers head will explode because they won’t know what to do because I refused to move. I know they don’t like cars sitting at the window, but why move me when no one is waiting behind me and most times by the time I’ve moved they are walking out with the food anyway. Pointless exercise!

    • Back in my high school days I glamourously worked at KFC. They helpfully introduced a clock that counted how long a car had been at the window. To help us serve customers faster and achieve our targets, the clock beeped after a set time. I can’t recall exactly now, but for arguments sake, let’s say 90 seconds.

      The thing kept beeping incessantly until the car was gone. It was ear piercing, louder than anything else in the store and to help keep our sanity, we’d often park cars because we knew they’d take longer than the alotted time (mostly because we were short staffed and trying to do three different jobs at once). We’d do anything to avoid hearing that noise. I still cringe if I hear it now through the car window.

      I’m sure other fast food stores and staff are in the same situation. Which is why they’re usually pretty keen to get you to park…

    • We have said no to moving before on a few occasions and all they have said is “ah ok” and walk away. Then sometimes only 20 seconds later we have all our food instead of waiting sometimes 10mins in the waiting bay.

      And I say it really depends on the McDonalds how fast they are.

      And drive thru is usually prioritised first because they have a time for each car and get ranked nationally live on a screen based on the drive thru service.

      The drive thru is the compitition between stores and if you are moved from the window to a waiting bay your order is marked as complete.

      Also once I had to wait 15mins for “fresh eggs” in the morning. Ended up having to walk in the shop anyway

    • i have done this and it ended up with a complaint to HQ as the manager was being a complete bitch. i am sick of being directed to a waiting bay for a basic item like a hash brown or fries

    • I do refuse. If there isn’t a car behind me, I don’t move. I just politely say ‘No, I’m not holding anyone up. IF a car comes behind me, I will move then.’ They can’t force you, and it hurries the order up so their timer isn’t registering the extended time. I believe that’s why they move you, because they have a service timer, recording the time each vehicle sits at the delivery window. If they move you to the waiting bay, your vehicle is recorded as ‘being served’. Cheating their own system of improving service times really, so I just refuse. And if I have only ordered coffee and nothing more, I won’t move even if there are cars behind me. I can see the machine from my car window – “just make the coffee and I’ll go”. They always do.

    • The truth is McDonald have the system which records your experiencing time,which will indicate that they will do in time 2:20 targeting time..they are expecting to hit their target so they would be the first place very soon…… this is funny when once my manager ask me to park the car just to hit the target time and they even ask their own crew to drive around in drive thru so the head department would see that we have many customer.

  • it has been many years since i flipped a burger so things may have changed. It depends on the way the timer system works, if you are trying to push your stats down you can ask a car to go into the wait bay (which goes past the ‘out’ sensor) and then hit the ‘close’ button on the order and it records that time in the log. You just need to remember to finish the order since its no longer flashing up on a screen.

    As an occasional customer i have found it has gotten better, with the new 2 + lane entry systems they seem to be able to see more cars at once and there for cook more items at each run so they are not wasting there time. In effect you wait less time to give your order but more time after giving it.

  • I think it has gotten slower over the past few years, but only by seconds / few minutes.

    I usually find it’s quicker to just go inside and order than it is to drive through. Also, you’re not so rushed into choosing what you want by going inside.

  • it has gotten slower since the made to order, they can’t just pluck something out anymore.

    things like paywave and no need to use a pin also make you get to the delivery window quicker, lenghtening your wait

  • Yeah the annoying waiting bay – I didn’t actually realise they put you there to say “job closed” essentially that’s interesting.

    Though I tell you what I have had some impressive serves I don’t even know how they do it so fast at maccas, just the other day I paypassed it and drove around the corner where they were already holding my entire meal+drink out the window waiting for me to just grab it and drive, it wasn’t even a small order either it was a Beef Hunger Buster deal.

  • What I want to know is, do they serve people in the drive through faster than the people in store. Is there a preference? At my local Maccas often there’s a line of cars at the drive through and no wait at the counter inside. So I park and go in. Sometimes I seem to wait quite a long time to get my burger inside. Despite literally being the only person in there. All the whole I am watching quite a few cars going through and being served.

  • I always end up walking in, as they’ve forgotten half the stuff i’ve ordered… and it usually happens at KFC.

    Looks like i’m not the only one too, as most people, before leaving the window, check their order quickly, just to make sure that everything is there.

  • Try subway! you have to come in but then you see what you get…fresh cut veggies, freshly baked bread, toasted and warmed at time of purchase and not dried out till someone buys it.

    Optionally you can make the nice sandwich yourself and baking bread is fun. I tried and made
    little faces in the crust! Woohoo!

  • I don’t bother with drive through any more. I’ve had too many orders messed up, with either something completely missing or with a completely different burger added (like receiving a McChicken burger rather than a Big Mac). By the time I find a parking spot and head inside to get my order fixed, it ends up just being quicker and easier to go inside in the first place.

  • My local allways make us go to the waiting bay but if we’re there for more than a few minutes they always give us something small as a free extra for waiting, usually an apple pie,fries,cheeseburger or collectable glass.

    This is in a pretty upscale area though.

  • I used to work at McDonald’s a few years ago, so I thought I’d clarify a few things.

    First off, the Drive Thru is prioritised over the counter. Technically all burgers/wraps are made in the order that they are placed, so you should get it at the same time using both methods, but in practice there is a much more directed procedure for the Drive Thru and greater emphasis to push orders through. On the Drive Thru you have the authority to expedite orders and usually have a dedicated person processing drinks and desserts and another dedicated to bagging the order (fulfillment). Drive Thru used to be considered a much higher level than front counter and the staff would often be a lot better, but that has started to change with the lack of decent workers coming through. Service members still start on the front counter and move to the Drive Thru after they garner some experience.

    If you are parked (instructed to go to the waiting bays), your order is not marked as complete. You are parked if there are items in your order that they cannot fulfill within 20 seconds, but orders after you that all items are ready for. Doing so means they can complete orders (and hence have better stats) because other cars are still within the correct time frames. If you are waiting more than 60 seconds while in the waiting bays, someone has stuffed up and your Drive Thru Manager on that shift is incompetent. I would personally walk out and apologise and provide a free item when a parked order went over 60 seconds, which happened very rarely. I should note that if the Drive Thru Manager is rubbish, they may clear your order instead of actually assigning it as ‘Parked’, because they can’t manage to get a good time without dodging the system. This is probably why you are waiting a long time (they have forgotten about you and there is no active order to see – causes a lot of issues). I should also mention that you do get some Drive Thru Managers who are “park happy” and will park an order as soon as there is a delay, even if it doesn’t really make much sense.

    Having bags that are too small is also just the fulfillment member being stupid. There is no incentive for using a small bag, it is just pure laziness/idiocy and it often makes it more difficult for everyone. There are always big enough bags. Packing a bag correctly is also easier than doing it wrong, and there is a set procedure. If followed correctly, you will never have chips flying about (some may come loose though, obviously).

    Regarding nuggets and sauces, make sure you mention the sauce you want when placing your order, that way it should go on the order and the fulfillment member can see and pack the bag with it. Again though, lazy fulfillment can be the issue.

    A little trick that I use to make sure my burger is definitely made on the spot, and easily identifiable by me when I quickly scan the bag after they hand it over, is to make a modification to the burger. With a modification (ie, no onions on burger) the order is usually focused on more and the burger box will have a ‘grill slip’ attached (looks like a docket) so you know instantly it is your burger. The employees also have an easier reference and there will be less mix ups.

    You’d be surprised the difference it makes having a decent employee controlling the Drive Thru though.

  • Ive largely given up on drive thru and just go in.

    Worst I’ve ever had was at red rooster (West. Australia) where 3 of us gave up being stuck in the drive thru, turned the engines off of our cars and went inside to yell abuse at the manager about the wait time… He just looked at us blankly like he hadn’t a clue how long the queue was. Interestingly about 4 months later that red chook burnt down somehow!

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