Is The Best Way To Be Polite To Drive-Thru Servers Not To Talk To Them At All?

Have you ever wondered about the proper decorum when visiting a restaurant's drive-thru window? Although interactions with restaurant staff are limited in these situations, it's still important to conduct yourself in a polite and civilized manner. In this respect, you might think that the staff member could use a little entertainment in the form of light chit-chat. Or should you completely refrain from speaking to the person at all in the interest of timeliness?

Like most things in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. While actual figures can vary, a study cited by USA Today found that average drive-thru wait times in 2021 totaled 6 minutes and 22 seconds. During the previous year, it was 5 minutes and 57 seconds. This research indicates that wait times are rising, which is equally annoying to customers and fast-food workers. As a result, all patrons should evaluate their current drive-thru approach to determine whether they're being a little too friendly in line.

It's called a drive-thru for a reason

A significant part of the restaurant experience is interacting with your server. In this case, you're likely to engage in polite conversation each time the person visits your table, in addition to ordering food and drinks. Many people also bring this same level of engagement to restaurant drive-thrus, which isn't always a smart approach. While being kind is important, you should keep communication brief to avoid making things more complicated for all involved. Say hello, quickly ask how the staff member is doing, then be on your way.

People visit the drive-thru when time is of the essence, usually during lunch breaks or after leaving work. That means an extended conversation with the person helping you could irritate the other customers in line. And even if you're not concerned about that (patience is a virtue, after all), consider that they could take out their frustration on the restaurant staff. In the same respect, most fast-food establishments are invested in moving customers through the line as quickly as possible. If a staff member is stuck dealing with a particularly chatty customer, they could be penalized for the infraction. While it's not exactly fair, it's an unfortunate aspect of the quick-casual dining industry. Of course, keeping things brief is just one of several ways to improve your drive-thru experience.

How to become a lean, mean, drive-thru machine

Virtually all fast-food restaurants with drive-thrus have preview menus situated at the beginning of the line. These helpful fixtures allow you to see the menu to determine what you'd like to order before you actually interact with a fast-food worker. Peruse the preview menu to get an idea of what's offered, then make a decision as soon as possible. Additionally, make sure any passengers along for the ride know what they want prior to reaching the microphone.

When placing your order, speak loudly and clearly. Turn down the music in the car and ask your passengers to be quiet for a minute or two. Use the specific names on the menu to avoid confusion, and don't try to get cute by ordering items from other establishments (staff members have heard it all before). Additionally, include sizes if you're not picking up a combo meal. If you have special requests, such as hold the lettuce, extra ketchup, no ice, etc., now is the time to make them. When you arrive at the window to pay and pick up your food, have your form of payment ready. It's not exactly rocket science, but taking the right approach to drive-thrus minimizes stress for you, the restaurant staff, and other customers.