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Finding the Fastest Way to Get Fast Food

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RALEIGH — We have all been there: You pull up to a fast food restaurant only to find a long line of cars outside, but there are also people waiting inside. So do you walk in or us the drive-thru?

To see which is quicker, WRAL's Amanda Lamb and Ron Walker visited four local fast food restaurants.

At each stop, one used the drive-thru, while the other ordered inside the restaurant. Each time, Amanda and Ron ordered the same food item. Here is what they found:

Stop 1: Hardee's After synchronizing their watches, Amanda and Ron got in line at the same time and ordered the same thing: Hardee's All-Star Combo.

It took Ron 2 minutes and 39 seconds to get his order at the drive-thru. It took 6 minutes and 45 seconds for Amanda to get her order inside the restaurant.

In this case, the drive-thru was a time-saver.

"On a daily basis, we probably have anywhere from 300 to 600 cars," says Kenneth Avery, a vice president for Hardee's. He says 50 percent of the restaurant's business takes place in the drive-thru.

The company has installed clocks in each drive-thru that beeps if a customer waits too long. Daily averages are tallied, and the fastest restaurants are rewarded.

"We continue to drop our time," says Avery. "We think that every second you drop on drive-thru speed of service, you pick up money in the bank."

Stop 2: McDonald's At this stop, Amanda was already through the drive-thru and eating her cheeseburger combo before Ron placed his order inside. In this case, the drive-thru was twice as fast as walking in.

Stop 3: Miami Subs Amanda and Ron placed their orders for the chicken finger platter at almost exactly the same time. Amanda went inside, while Ron ordered from the car.

Amanda walked out almost four minutes before Ron was served.

"That's excessive. That's not normal," says Lou Moushakos, the owner of eight Miami Subs restaurants in the area.

Moushakos agrees that the drive-thru should be faster than walking in.

"We try to prioritize the drive-thru to be within 5 minutes," he says.

Moushakos says, in a good economy, it is hard to hire and retain good workers.

"I think labor is the biggest challenge that we have. However, we have seen a better labor market now than we have had in the past."

Stop 3: Wendy's At Wendy's, the service was fast inside and out, but the drive-thru won again.

Managers say keeping the "fast" in fast food is the best way to keep customers coming back.

"People are always in a hurry," says Kenneth Avery of Hardee's. "If we can get more cars through, then our business flourishes, people are happy and they come back."

In three out of four restaurants tested, the drive-thru was faster than going inside the restaurant.

Improving the speed of the drive-thru has been a major focus for these businesses.

In this region, Hardee's had an average wait of 3-and-a-half minutes several months ago. Recently, that time has dropped to 3 minutes and 7 seconds. What did you think about this story?Send us feedback.


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