The average American will spend about $60,000 in their lifetime on drive-through food, approximately $1,200 a year. By 2020, the total fast food spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $223 billion. Even more, 70% of all fast food revenue comes from drive-through windows alone.
Given all this fast food for thought, the Caliber Collision team has provided a window into the history of the drive-through, providing you with a grab-and-go fact sheet faster than you can say “would you like fries with that?”
1931: The Drive-In
Before there were drive-throughs, there were drive-ins. Only a decade after the mass production of automobiles began, consumers started looking for a way to eat at their favorite spots without having to leave the comfort of their own cars. One Texas-based chain—the Pig Stand—is credited as the first drive-in, offering carhops and busboys who would bring food straight to your car window. And while some say that Pig Stand No. 21—the first spot to offer a window for picking up food—was the first drive-through restaurant, many will argue a small business in Baldwin Park, California is the one true first drive-through.
1948: The First Drive-Through
With no indoor seating and no parking, the 100-square foot burger shack was home to five cooks, delicious food and a sign out front that read “In-N-Out Hamburgers – No Delay.” In-N-Out was the first restaurant to offer an intercom system for taking orders, and a drive-through only service. Setting the precedent for fast-food chains everywhere, the California burger chain was wildly successful as customers could get their food in no time, and without leaving their driver’s seat.
1975: McDonald’s Joins In
Despite In-N-Out’s success, it took a while for other fast food restaurants to hop on board. Within the next decade, Jack in the Box, Wendy’s and Wienerschnitzel would adopt the drive-through service system, but McDonald’s wasn’t buying it. It wasn’t until 1975, when McDonald’s already had 3,000 locations in the U.S., that the store in Sierra Vista, Arizona opened its drive-through lane.
1983: Cup Holders Come Along
While eating in the car was no foreign concept, doing so neatly had yet to be mastered—until 1983, that is. Up to this point, a variety of cars had tried to introduce clip on food trays, glove compartment cup storage and other add-ons to accommodate their in-car dining habits. In 1983, however, the first cup holders that “sunk into the plastic of the dashboard” were installed in the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. It wasn’t for another decade, though, before cup holders became standard, and fast food consumption became even easier.
1984: The Wireless Intercom
In 1984, HM Electronics invented the first wireless intercom system for drive-throughs, changing the way restaurants would function from this point forward. Up to this point, the order taker was required to stand by the window and push a button in order to talk with the customer. This new system allowed the employee to multitask and step away from the window, thus increasing productivity and reducing wait time. This invention, along with others such as order confirmation boards and timers, contributed to the fast-paced environment we’ve come to expect today.
Today, with mobile ordering, Apple pay, rewards programs and other new innovations, the modern-day drive-through continues to change and evolve. With food service as fast as today’s Koenigsegg Agera RS, there’s nothing separating you from the road. But, wherever your journey takes you, make sure you keep your eyes on the road—not your food—and avoid distracted driving. And always remember, if your double-double cheeseburger pit stop leads to double-double trouble on the road, remember your Caliber Collision team is here and ready to serve out our Purpose—Restoring the Rhythm of Your Life.®