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Jun 1, 2007 07:00 AM

Drive Thru Etiquette

So is there such a thing??

The other day I was in line at the Uncle Timmy's drive thru and one driver was leaning out the car window with a list in her hand talking to the box. After a couple of minutes I pulled out of line and went inside instead. When I walked out she was just getting her order. In other words, she really tied things up for a while.

So the question is, is this an etiquette issue. Should you go inside if you have an order that'll take a while to expedite?? Or for some other reason that I can't think of??

Just to point out a few facts, she didn't have a child in the car. It wasn't raining and she didn't have a handicap sticker anywhere. All would be understandable reasons for being in the drive thru.


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  1. If I'm ordering for more than two people, I always go inside.

    I don't hold up the drive-thru lane, and I can make sure they don't screw up the order, which I find harder to check for a crowd when I'm in a car. It also saves me from having to park and go inside if they do mess it up. I can basically monitor exactly what they're putting in the bag and make sure they're getting everything right.

    So to answer, yes, I think it would be proper (if you aren't handicapped, with children, etc) to go inside as opposed to the drive thru when you have a lot of items to order.

    Here's my etiquette issue though...I'll pull up to the speaker and sometimes I'm not sure what I I order spontaneously because I feel rushed. Sometimes I wonder if I should just go inside so I can examine the menu a little more closely.

    2 Replies
    1. re: QueenB

      Well if you're in line, you can peruse the menu while you wait. If there's no line, why feel rushed??


      1. re: Davwud

        Some of the drive-thrus I go to don't have a visible (to me) menu until you're actually up to the speaker. Some have the menu posted twice...ahead of time, then again at the speaker...which helps.

    2. You're in your car listening to your radio and relaxing, I guess I wonder if this is really a big deal?

      Maybe she can't or doesn't want to carry it all by herself? Could that be a reason?

      1. Until and unless they have a 10 items or less line at the drive thru, sorry, there is no such thing as drive thru etiquette.

        1 Reply
        1. re: PeterL

          Agree completely. 9 out of 10 times I visit the drive-through it is because I don't feel like getting out of the car, NOT because I'm in a hurry.

        2. Tsk, tsk, YOU are the one who made the strategic dining blunder by even using the drive thru which is single threaded, subject to delays for all of the obvious reasons, and there's a greater chance that your order will be screwed up due to garbled communications.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Scagnetti

            My order is coffee. Black.

            Not a hard order.

            I generally don't use the drive thru. A local TV station here did a comparison at Tim Horton's (Uncle Timmy's) and found that, on average, it was 7 minutes faster to go inside than to get in line. That's a lot of time.


            1. re: Davwud

              Not to mention you're spending that much time (and more) setting your car to idle.

              1. re: Blueicus

                I only use it when there is a couple of cars or less.
                I just about never use it for food. Just coffee.


              2. re: Davwud

                I am surprised that the TV station found it faster to go inside then drive-thru. I find at Tim Hortons that they usually have 7 people working the drive-thru and only one person on the counter. Which is why during the morning rush I will wait in the drive-thru line rather then go inside.

                I like the think of the morning drive-thru at Tim Horton's like that Visa Check commerical. Everything is running great until one stupid person who doesn't get the way things work brings everything to a halt.

                If you have so many orders that you need a list go inside and order. Especially if you are ordering food at a coffee shop like Tim's. Its one thing to order a coffee and a muffin, but to order 10 coffees all different ways and then order 4 sandwiches and three bagels ... GO INSIDE.

                If you can't carry it all out by yourself, then staff will help you. (I worked in fastfood during highschool there is always someone who can help you)

            2. I've never really understood the appeal of drive-thrus.

              It's generally not faster for a variety of reasons, including the one Davwud mentions (e.g. a customer with a large and complex order).

              And as others have noted, there is a greater chance your order is screwed up when going through the drive-thru.

              And, finally, at least for those 24-hour drive-thrus, I also think it's more dangerous using the drive-thru late at night as it increases the chance of a carjacking.

              Just my 0.02.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                When McDonald's initially introduced its drive-thru, staff were required to get the customers from the speaker to driving away with their order in some ridiculously fast time like one minute flat. It was supposed to give faster service, but with the apparent don't-seem-to-care attitude of some employees and customers that order for 15 through the drive-thru, it is hardly fast anymore.

                1. re: NewSushiFiend

                  I remember a promotion McD's did a few years back where if you were at the final window for longer than one minute you got a free certificate for a chicken sandwich or cheeseburger. I imagine there were a lot of people getting a lot of free food for the duration of that stunt.