Americans Avoid Businesses Without a Drive-Thru


No drive-thru? For nearly half of Americans, that’s a deal-breaker.

New research shows that 47% of U.S. consumers would simply avoid going to a store that doesn’t have a drive-thru. And twice as many people prefer using the drive-thru to going in-store (28% vs. 14%).

According to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by One Poll for Dutch Bros, drive-thrus have become an essential part of daily life for many Americans.

People use the drive-thru for a variety of reasons, but most commonly to grab coffee (63%) or fast food (60%) at least three times per week.

And among those who prefer the drive-thru, one-third of them (32%) say they will “always” choose that option when it’s available.

The most popular time to hit the drive-thru is mid-morning, sometime between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. More than a quarter of consumers (27%), however, say coffee drive-thrus should be open after midnight and into the early hours of the morning. A similar cohort of night owls (26%) feel the same about fast-food restaurants.

Why is the drive-thru a must for so many Americans?

Speed, for one thing. Most respondents agree (61%) that the drive-thru tends to be the fastest option. Of course, it’s also nice not getting out of the car. Among those who prefer the drive-thru, 61% said they appreciate the comfort of remaining seated.

“Getting out of the car to go into a restaurant adds friction to the ordering process,” Bob Vergidis, chief visionary officer at told The Food Institute. “It’s an added step and can be even more laborious for people with small children or pets in the car.”

And in the spirit of efficiency, 52% of respondents said the drive-thru is appealing to avoid long lines. According to Vergidis, how the drive-thru line looks can even influence where a customer chooses to eat.

“Drive-thrus create an easy way to see how long the line is and how fast it is moving before deciding which restaurant to choose,” said Vergidis. “They are a visual indicator of how long it will take for guests to receive orders.”

Indeed, appearances are crucial to attract business, as 68% of Americans admit that they judge the quality of a store by their drive-thru.

How can businesses bolster the drive-thru experience?

Using technology to make the experience even more seamless is one way for businesses to capitalize on the convenience that consumers already expect from the drive-thru lane.

“Restaurants should think in a more integrated way,” explained Vergidis. “Drive-thrus are one part of the ordering process and their value increases when coupled with order-ahead apps and the ability for restaurants to notify guests when their order is ready.”

Some 46% of those surveyed said that a unique way to request or receive an order would make the whole experience more enjoyable.

But if a business can’t make the process more efficient, at least make it pretty. More than half of U.S. consumers (56%) said they would appreciate colorful artwork or artistic decorations in the drive-thru lane.