Fast food not fast enough: Half of Americans won’t go to stores without a drive-thru

NEW YORK — Americans are so busy, many won’t even get out of their cars to go shopping! Nearly half of Americans in a new poll would avoid going to a store that didn’t have a drive-thru option (47%). The survey of 2,000 U.S. adults found that twice as many people prefer the drive-thru to actually entering a store on foot (28% vs. 14%). A third of those who prefer drive-thrus claim they will “always” choose that option when it’s available (32%).

Results showed that people use the drive-thru for many reasons, most commonly for coffee (63%) or fast food (60%), at least three times a week. Some even visit the drive-thru to take care of their pharmaceutical (13%) and banking needs at least once a week (20%).

Unsurprisingly, people are most likely to show up at the drive-thru around mid-morning — between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. (35%), with 12:55 p.m. being the average time respondents recall sitting at the window.

Interestingly, more than a quarter of Americans think coffee drive-thrus should be open past midnight and into the early morning hours (27%). A similar percentage said the same about fast food restaurants (26%).

Conducted by OnePoll for Dutch Bros, the survey also looked at the personality differences between those who prefer drive-thrus versus going in-store and found that 77 percent of people who prefer drive-thrus consider themselves patient.

Surprisingly, these respondents are less likely to feel anxious when talking to store employees than those who prefer to go in-store (6% vs. 28%). They’re even more likely to feel confident talking to employees in-store (31% vs. 24%).

Chick-Fil-A drive-thru
Chick-Fil-A drive-thru (Photo by Jace Miller on Pixels)

Those who prefer to go in-store are likelier to be introverted than extroverted (63% vs. 34%), while drive-thru-goers’ personalities are the opposite (44% introverted vs. 53% extroverted).

“Drive-thrus can be intimidating when you’re not familiar with the place,” says the senior vice president of brand at Dutch Bros, Charles Swindler, in a statement. 

What is it about the drive-thru that appeals to so many Americans? Three in five can’t deny it tends to be the faster option (61%). Those who prefer drive-thrus also appreciate the comfort of staying in their car (61%) and avoiding long lines (52%).

Going in-store has its perks, however, like avoiding long lines of cars (72%), getting to see what you want in person (64%), and stretching your legs and walking around (62%). Drive-thrus just can’t be beaten, though, as two-thirds of respondents said they get better service than in-store (69%).

Results also showed that looks do matter here, as most of those surveyed admit that they’d judge the quality of a store by their drive-thru (68%). Similarly, 44 percent said they’ve actively skipped out on a boring-looking drive-thru.

For a more exciting experience, Americans said they’d appreciate colorful artwork or artistic decorations (56%) or the ability to play interactive games or activities inside the car (56%). Fifty-three percent also said music would make the experience more fun, along with a unique way to request or receive an order (46%).

“An early-morning experience at a drive-thru can make or break your day,” adds Swindler. “But that doesn’t have to be your entire day — whether you’re having a good or bad day, a delicious pick-me-up can easily make it a better one!”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 Americans was commissioned by Dutch Bros between July 7 and July 10, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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