Drive-Thru for Dummies

Through a rigorous process of scientific research, I have concluded that the majority of Americans have no idea how to appropriately place an order in a fast-food drive-thru. For your convenience and education, here are some fool-proof tips.

1. If you aren’t familiar with the restaurant’s menu or you don’t know what you want, go inside. Do not sit at the drive-thru sign for 5 minutes asking the employee about every option. While working drive-thru this summer, I calculated that taking longer than 1 minute to order during rush hour will slow us down.

2. Do not leave 3 car lengths between your car and the next. Don’t even leave 3 feet. The drive-thru I worked in was easily congested and often backed up traffic on the street. Those few feet are important.

3. Speak rapidly. I can take your order literally faster than you speak. I’m not suggesting that you go auctioneer on me, but don’t make me pull teeth for your order. A particularly annoying example:

Me: Welcome to blah blah how may I serve you?

Customer: I’d like a #1.


Me: Ok, what would you like to drink with that?

Customer: A coke.


Me: Is there anything else I can get for you?

Customer: A #5.


Me: Would you like the #5 8 or 12 count?

Customer: 8.


Me: And what would you like to drink with that?

Customer: Sweet tea.


Me: Ok, will that be all for you?

Customer: Kid’s meal, nuggets.

And so on…..(scientific, I’m telling you. I don’t make these things up.)

4. Don’t be rude. Honestly, why is this so difficult? I’m not being rude. I’m paid to be nice to you, yes, but minimum wage is a pretty low incentive for not spitting in your food. A lot of fast food workers are hard-working high school or college students. There is no reason to take your stress out on them.

5. Stop talking on your cell phone. Put it down. Turn it off. You are being incredibly rude, slowing down the line, and generally making me want to hit you. Your conversation is likely not so important that you can’t ask them for a moment to order your food and talk to the cashier.

6. Tell your passengers to be quiet. I understand that if your passenger is a screaming two year old, there is little you can do. But if you’re driving a car full of teens and you are all too busy laughing at each other to reasonably converse with me, I will also want to punch you in the face.

7. Don’t make fun of the order taker or cashier, especially if they’re trying to be nice. I try to be particularly upbeat and friendly on headset, and I have had people mock my voice. Bad idea. Also, see #4.

8. Listen when we repeat your order. If your order was read back to you twice and then you get it and complain that you wanted the large, not the small, I will have no sympathy. We will give it to you, of course, because you’re always right, but we will complain about it as soon as you leave.

9. Don’t ask for unreasonable things and then complain about waiting. It’s fast food, not instant food. We don’t keep gallons of sweet tea on hand, so we’ll have to pour that for you by hand. We also don’t keep hundreds of nuggets on hand, so that tray will be a few minutes. Or call ahead…and it will be ready when you show up.

10. Turn off your diesel truck. It’s too loud for me to hear your order, and it’s probably making me deaf. Turn it off.

All of those are common drive-thru problems. If you are guilty, we forgive. Just get it right next time, and tell all your friends. Other drive-thru workers, feel free to add to these tips in the comments or share war stories. I genuinely love working all drive-thru positions, but it has its fair share of frustrating moments.

2 thoughts on “Drive-Thru for Dummies

  1. These are great rules to follow – I hope those who need them the most will learn! It’s great that you maintain a positive attitude toward the position while sharing what you wish your customers would change.

    • Well, I somehow doubt that most customers who need these reminders will read, but maybe it will help someone! I really, truly do love working in drive-thru – it has a distinct flavor and I really enjoy excelling at drive-thru service. 🙂 At the root of the customer problem is lack of knowledge – people have never worked fast food, so they haven’t thought through how it works. I sometimes wish that everyone was required to work customer service or fast food at least for a short time. People would be much nicer and more sympathetic.

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