A Fast-Food Drive-Thru Ranking (in Case You’re Doing More of That Now)

Gasp: TC isn't a fan of Whataburger. Please keep reading anyway.
courtesy Whataburger
Gasp: TC isn't a fan of Whataburger. Please keep reading anyway.
Soon our current pressures will kick out the last leg of this doomed society, and the only thing any of us will eat is what we can hunt on the debris-strewn plains.

But for now drive-thru service is still available. I eat at fast-food drive-thrus a lot, so I’ve prepared some notes that will hopefully help you through quarantine/shelter-in-place/social distancing/our New Norm.

click to enlarge
They have drive-thru down.
v343790 via WikiCommons


The top performer in the field. They can get to a 10 on the urgency scale. Everywhere else struggles to get to a 7. Most of their locations have two lanes. They send employees out to cars so they can start the order right when you’re getting in line (or at least they did before the worst pandemic of the last century, who knows what they do now). No one handles peak demand like they do. As further proof of their dedication to a speedy trip, the location outside Love Field is actually oriented almost exclusively around drive-thru service.

Sonic Drive-In

I’ve never found Sonic to be the swiftest, but it’s the only one on the list where you can leave your car in park (or off) for the entire wait. That’s extra time to read dril tweets. I upgrade them half a letter grade for that.


What to say about the drive-thru experience at Whataburger? Listen. I live here. I don’t want to say anything bad about Whataburger. Nothing good can come from me saying anything bad about Whataburger. So I’m just not going to comment further.

THE fried chicken sandwich everyone was talking about last year.
TC Fleming


A very low level of service is, in my opinion, a key part of the charm here. But their rollout of the chicken sandwich has prepared them for getting into a wartime footing. They’ve already staffed up. I think they’re ready for the Coronapocalypse.

In-N-Out Burger

They have the hustle of Chick-fil-A, sending the people out to get your order down as soon as you’re in line. The thing with In-N-Out, though, is that for food-quality reasons (which I respect), the process in the kitchen takes awhile. That puts a cap on how fast they can move, so lines will pile up at peak times.


It really varies quite a bit location to location. They have some built with two lanes and three windows that can handle a large volume quickly. On the other hand, the one by my house backs up like an oxy addict if they get more than three cars in a 10-minute span.

Jack in The Box, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Taco Bell

These are all average.

The Great Outdoors and Great American Hero

These are not national chains, but I do want to give them a shout-out. I love sandwiches, and having multiple local options to buy a sandwich without it becoming clear whether or not I am wearing pants is a real blessing.