A Brief History of the Drive-Thru

drive thru

Fast food has been a staple in cities all over the world. It seems that wherever you go, you’ll see a large M hovering from a distance or an old colonel’s grin over a red-and-white store. The popularity is often attributed to their convenience and affordability. When you’re in a hungry, in a hurry and only have a few extra bills in your pocket, fast food is your go-to option.

Today, as experts continue to encourage social distancing, drive-thru has become the safest option—not only for fast-food chains but for the food industry as a whole. In times when merely getting from one place to another is more difficult than ever, the convenience of drive-thru windows has proven to be more valuable. The drive-thru services should be available for many, especially for healthcare and other essential workers.

The History of the Drive-Thru

Interestingly enough, the drive-thru is a product of economic change over the years. Think about how entire lots and buildings are dedicated only to parking. How about daily traffic? How is the ratio between private cars and public transportation? Think about the presence of valet services and chauffeur services, too. Much like these aspects of society, the rise of car culture all over the world has paved the way for the demand of over-the-window transactions.

drive thru lane

There are several alleged beginnings of the drive-thru. In 1931, chefs of Pig Stand No. 21 delivered food right to the cars of the customers. Sixteen years later, food chains along Route 66 started to cater to the huge number of vehicles on a road trip by handing over food into car windows. In 1951, Jack in the Box held its primary operations through over-the-window transactions in San Diego, California.

However, In-N-Out was the game-changer in 1948. The establishment did not have a dine-in option, yet it had cooks and personnel manning take-out food. All they had—for customers to get food—was a drive-thru and a revolutionary two-way intercom system.

Drive-in restaurants used to be a thing back then. Cars would park and eat in their vehicles. But as drive-thru became more patronised by consumers, the food industry noticed that fewer cars were driving in to eat. Because of this, more fast-food chains incorporate drive-thru windows to their operations. Hence, in 1975, McDonald’s and Burger King adopted the concept of a drive-thru.

How essential is the Drive-Thru?

Drive-thru lanes are busier than ever. A QSR survey found that 70 per cent of restaurants’ sales come from drive-thru transactions. They’re also going slower, with an average of 234 seconds from jotting down the orders to receiving the orders. This is nine seconds longer than the past year.

The drive-thru has proven itself to be an important part of the food industry. With more and more people acquiring cars and living an on-the-go lifestyle, this type of service will continue to be valuable in society. This lifestyle plays a significant role, especially in the current situation of the world as it faces a pandemic. Because of the safe distance made possible by over-the-window transactions, the drive-thru lane is as essential and busy as ever.

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