If there was ever an operation that was in need of tech refresh, it has got to be the drive-thru window. In the 30-something years since they became widespread, nothing really has changed. Sure, the speakers may have better quality, and some upscale joints may have electronic signs showing your order. But let’s be honest — is there really any difference between the drive-thrus of today and what we had when “Cheeseburger in Paradise” was topping the charts? The answer is a resounding, “NO!”
You might be asking yourself how I could speak with such authority. It’s very simple. Fast food is how I live. Conservatively estimated, nearly 40 percent of my meals are delivered through a driver’s side window. When I was in college, a guy doing phone surveys for fast food service hung up on me when I told him I ate fast food over 50 times a month. To me, the five food groups are hamburger, chicken, Mexican, Chinese and pizza. So it should be no surprise that when it comes to drive-thru windows, I consider myself a subject matter expert.
The best drive-thrus in town are undoubtedly run by Chick-fil-A. The Chick-fil-A drive-thru’s performance is rooted in organization and execution. No matter which restaurant you visit, the drive-thru line is guaranteed to be long, especially at the Augusta Exchange and Mullins Crossing locations. No worries, though. There’s nothing to fear. The Chick-fil-a servers always stay positive and keep things moving in the right direction. Road stick thingy’s to manage traffic — check! Place a person outside to take orders and improve efficiency — check! Food properly bagged and ready to go when you drive up — check! On behalf of everyone going through the lunch drive-thru, thank you, Chick-fil-A. It’s our pleasure!
The fastest drive-thru I’ve ever been through is the Wendy’s at the corner of N. Academy Boulevard and Kelly Johnson Boulevard in Colorado Springs. I worked not far from there and, on more than one occasion, I was able to go through the lunch-time line without having to come to a complete stop. I could never figure out how they did it.
Of course, you can’t talk about drive-thrus without mentioning McDonald’s. Like it or hate it (FYI — I’m Lovin’ It!), the one thing you can say about McDonald’s is that they are consistent. Whether you’re on Washington Road, Peach Orchard Road, Walton Way or anywhere else for that matter, you know what you are getting. I’ve eaten McDonald’s on three different continents (two hamburgers — no pickle, small fry and small Coca-Cola), and burger flippers in Beijing deliver the same Happy Meal as they do in London!
Augusta Tek Trivia — A few years ago my wife and I spent a week in Beijing. We ended up eating at one restaurant more than any others. Which one was it? Well, the Schlotzsky’s in the China World Mall, of course. How about a close second? The KFC across the street, of course.
Finally, do you ever need to get away from the office, but don’t want to deal with the crowd at a sit-down restaurant? One of my favorite drive-thrus might suit you. Well, it’s not so much a drive-thru as a Drive In. Sonic provides a place to drive up and chill-out with a nice beverage. (It’s the Ultimate Drink stop, after all.) Personally, I like the one on Bel Air Road. It’s quiet and out-of-the-way. (Translation: No one has found me at this hiding spot.)
Until next time, I’ll hold the pickles if you hold the lettuce.