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Fast Food Drive-Thru, 2 lanes faster than 1?


Have you noticed that many of the new fast food restaurants have 2 drive-thru lanes.  My first experience with one I thought “wow, really?”.  I found myself frozen with confusion.   My wife saved me by pointing to the left lane.  Similar to choosing a restaurant or a movie, I now can blame her if the car behind me gets the food first.

My car reached the ordering sign.  I am terrible at ordering fast food.  Even though I drive 99% of the time, my wife will lean over me and shout the order through my window.  There are just too many details my over-indulged kids care about that the make the process too complicated.  Have you ever communicated the perfect order only to be replied with “sir, can you repeat that?”.  AHHH.

To my surprise, I noticed all cars converge on a single “pay” window.  2 lanes should be faster than one, right?  I thought it would be interesting to model the typical fast food drive-thru process comparing 1 versus 2 lanes.  Before sharing the results of my simulation model, I wanted to poll what you think.


Author: Dan Hickman

Chief Technology Officer ProModel Corporation

5 thoughts on “Fast Food Drive-Thru, 2 lanes faster than 1?

  1. I would think the answer to “will you get your food fast” depends on multiple variables; the length of the Queue between the order window and the pay/receive your food window, how many cars are in the Queue, the capacity in the kitchen to fill the orders and how long it takes to fill the orders types.

  2. i tried to vote for potentially slower, but the poll did not record my vote. I think twice as many people ordering food, for only one pay line will cause people to wait longer.

  3. The feedback is good. Looks like I might have to add some features 🙂

  4. My first thought was that there will be little difference because both lanes converge into at single cashier window at which the food is obtained by the customers. I assumed that the food-for-payment rate at that window would remain constant, so that bottleneck would remain unchanged and the customers would get food no faster than before.

    On second thought, however, the cooks will be getting orders twice as fast due to two ordering lanes, so the cooks will have less wait time to get an order. So, some speed may be gained there. Also, the cooks will be filling orders faster, perhaps twice as fast, so the cashier will have less of a wait for getting food from the cooks. So the cashier may have more food in the queue for the customers – a backlog of filled orders; therefore the customer may have a shorter wait at the window to actually get the food.

    My final answer: the customers get their food slightly faster.

    Wait, wait – then again …

  5. Another thought: Would McGigaBurgers have implemented the change to two lanes if they did not already have either empirical evidence or analytical evidence that the additional lane would speed the rate of filling orders? Maybe. Maybe what you observed was the exercise of gathering empirical data to test the theory or prove the analyses for supersizing their drive-throughs.

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