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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's not just you: The lines at fast food drive-throughs have gotten much slower.

The big picture: Customers want fresher food with more customization, and restaurants are struggling to keep up. The average wait time at chain drive-throughs is now 3 minutes and 54 seconds, up from 3 minutes and 10 seconds in 2003, per industry trade pub QSR.

  • “We’ve almost quit doing fast food because they are not fast food any more,” stay-at-home mom Michelle Hancock told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Recruiter Ramonda Coleman on how she handles a long line: “I go to the next shortest line place.”

By the numbers: Here's the average wait time for a fast food drive-through in 2018, compiled by QSR...

  1. Burger King 3:13
  2. Dunkin' Donuts 3:20
  3. KFC 3:38
  4. Wendy's 3:48
  5. Taco Bell 3:57
  6. Arby's 3:58
  7. Carl's Jr. 4:13
  8. Hardee's 4:16
  9. Chick-fil-A 4:21
  10. McDonald's 4:33

Flashback: Wendy's average wait time in 2003 was less than 2 minutes.

What's next: The chains are hustling to get ahead of this trend.

  • McDonald's paid $300 million for sales assistant software Dynamic Yield to better personalize its menus.
  • The CaliBurger chain is installing a robotic fry cook: "Flippy ... which will be installed in up to 10 of CaliBurger's 50 locations, can turn patties on a grill and clean it."
  • And Yum Brands bought a 3% stake in GrubHub in 2018.

The bottom line: The days of simple orders, kept warm under heat lamps, feel long past. But the question of whether customers will adjust their patience in response seems less certain.

Go deeper

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

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FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios