Miss604 Poll: The Price of Drive-Thru Service

Comments 7 by Rebecca Bollwitt

On a trip down to Bellis Fair a few years ago, Tanya and I stopped by a drive-thru coffee shop to order some caffeine for the ride home. We drove around to the far end of a gas station parking lot where it was located and pulled up to the window to order. The barista asked if we wanted to win a prize and handed us a cup with several slivers of paper inside. Both Tanya and I chose our ticket and unfolded it to reveal what we had won: “full price coffee“.


Photo credit: RoadsidePictures on Flickr

You can pretty much use a drive-thru window to purchase anything nowadays. From burgers and coffee to movies and a marriage – in some parts of the continent. Drive-thru Starbucks are pretty big for commuters in these parts, and rumour has it that Wendy’s is usually quicker than McDonald’s with their orders. But the issue that’s been raised across Canada is, what about the pollution from all those cars in the queues?

At some popular fast-food restaurants across the country, lineups are so long they stretch out of parking lots and spill onto public streets, and politicians are eyeing the emissions spewed by all the idling cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles.

Students at the University of Alberta monitored a popular Tim Hortons outlet in Edmonton last year for 54 hours and counted 3,756 vehicles idling for an average of more than five minutes each. The longest idle was more than 12 minutes. [CBC]

There are several reasons why I only visit a drive-thru maybe once every six months, the main being that I don’t own a car. However, I know some people actually rely on this method. It’s mentioned in the CBC article that drive-thrus are almost becoming an essential service to the elderly and people with small children.

I know my sister, with three younguns, has a heck of a time getting them rallied to head into the restaurant in a timely manner especially if they’re just picking up the food to take home. Having to unbuckle and carry the smallest, while keeping an eye on the other two means it’s taking her a long time to get the kids inside safely, meanwhile wrecking her bad back in the process.

I’m not sure eliminating drive-thrus would be a solution, however I am all for fewer cars and emissions. I like the convenience and the option to get things “on the go”, so how could we improve conditions? For starters, Tim Hortons says they’re going to have separate coffee stations at drive-thru windows, and are offering more ‘quick pay’ options. But what happens if drive-thrus start to disappear, would you really miss them?

[poll=12]

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7 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. MegTuesday, December 11th, 2007 — 8:51am PST

    I think — especially in relatively temperate climates like our own — that turning off your car while you wait would probably lessen a lot of the issue, especially if you’re in a huge lineup. It’s the same thing as the border lineups — imagine the idling there, for HOURS on end. Just turn off your car if you’re going to be stuck for a couple of minutes.

    I know that would be a harder sell on the prairies, but once your car is heated up, two minutes with the engine off won’t kill you.

  2. JenTuesday, December 11th, 2007 — 9:44am PST

    The fatal flaw in the drive “through” is that it’s a constant process, pumping cars through a queue. Turning one’s car off and on and off and on again and again as the line progresses is no better (and probably worse) then just idling through.

    I think we should bring back the drive “in” (still existent at some free-standing White Spot locations). Pull up, turn on headlights, turn off engine. A runner comes out to your car, takes your order, you turn off your headlights and wait for food to appear. Especially with wireless debit machines now, there’s really no excuse to not adopt this kind of system.

  3. fotoeinsTuesday, December 11th, 2007 — 9:47am PST

    … drive-thru to get to the ATM to get some cash …

    … And then, drive-thru to get the burger, fries, and a drink …

    … And then …

  4. AdelaideTuesday, December 11th, 2007 — 10:15am PST

    Totally. I have two munchkins and sometimes it’s just plain easier to go to a drive-through. My daughter is old enough to handle walking in with no fuss’n’muss, but my son would be a balance act (trying to keep a hold on him, whilst trying to grab money from my wallet out of the purse, as he tries to grab EVERYTHING in his sight, AND trying to get out of my grip so that he can run wild). Plus yes, the whole getting-out-of-carseat thing. I mainly go to the Tim Horton’s drive-through for my morning coffee. Unless I’m able to park right at the front entrace where I can see my kids. Then I run in and grab my coffee (which is faster than the drive-through).

  5. JennyTuesday, December 11th, 2007 — 10:30am PST

    The worst I’ve seen is people queuing for the car wash. You know it’s going to take several minutes for each car ahead to go through there is no point idiling for 15-20 minutes before your turn.
    We love the white spot drive up once in awhile for a treat like some ice cream and pie while sitting in the car. Whenever I’m alone I just go in, it seems so lazy to me that people can’t be bothered to park and run in for their food when they are able bodied adults. 9 times out of 10 at the Timmy’s by our place there is nobody waiting inside and you are in and out faster than the people still waiting in their cars!

  6. Duane StoreyTuesday, December 11th, 2007 — 2:29pm PST

    We used to get really drunk in Chilliwack and walk through the drive thrus. They didn’t like that.

  7. Miss604Tuesday, December 11th, 2007 — 2:35pm PST

    what, no shopping carts?

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