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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

1 hour ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Nursing homes are still getting pummeledU.S. could hit herd immunity by end of summer 2021 if Americans embrace virus vaccines, Fauci says.
  2. Politics: Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework.
  3. World: U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for mass rollout — Putin says Russia will begin large-scale vaccination next week.
  4. Business: Investors are finally starting to take their money out of safe-haven Treasuries.
  5. Sports: The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight.

Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Nov. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to use a $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief framework as a basis for jumpstarting negotiations.

Why it matters: The framework, introduced by a group of bipartisan senators on Tuesday, calls for significantly less funding than Pelosi had previously demanded — a sign that Democrats are ready to further compromise as millions of Americans endure economic hardship.