The Art of the Drive-Thru Fast-Food Robbery

With the pace of modern life being what it is, it's become all but impossible to find time for a leisurely sit-down meal or an old-fashioned holdup-style heist. Thank goodness then for the fast-food drive-thru, which offers fast, convenient service to on-the-go burger lovers and time-pressed armed robbers alike.

Now, you might be inclined to dismiss the drive-thru robbery as a dumb and unconscionably lazy way to get money, and you'd be right, but the technique, deployed correctly, can be surprisingly effective.

Just take what happened at a Pleasant Grove McDonald's early Sunday morning. At 3:40 a.m., a man walked up to the 24-hour drive-thru window, pointed a gun at the manager, and demanded cash, which the manager stuffed into a to-go bag. The robber ran off with $315.

There have been at least five such attempts in Dallas during the past year. Three were successful, netting an average of $415. Two were not.

It's a small sample size, but they suggest what it takes to pull off a drive-thru heist. All of the successful robbers were on foot, making it easier to reach through the window, which becomes especially important when the cashier runs away at the sight of a gun, requiring the bandit to pry open the cash register himself.

It also doesn't hurt to place an order, so long as you wait to show the gun and demand money until it arrives. At a South Dallas Williams Chicken in February, two men pulled $400 from the till after receiving the cup of water they requested.

The common thread in the failed heists seems to be a lack of persistence. In April, at a Whataburger on Camp Wisdom Road, a customer pulled a gun and demanded "all your money" after the cashier said the $20 bill she was using to pay for food was counterfeit. But when the cashier fled from the window, the would-be robbers simply drove away.

Similarly, when a Jack in the Box was held up last month, the suspect ran away with nothing after spending almost no time fiddling with the abandoned cash register.

Not that the chance of coming up empty-handed is dissuading many robbers. Just last week, New York magazine declared that drive-through hold-ups were "on the rise." Fast food chains should take note, or else they'll have an epidemic on their hands.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson