The drive-thru, an American icon


Fact: We’re all very busy these days.

Fact: There are times it’s hard to block out time to eat.

Fact: For many of us, this is where the restaurant drive-thru comes into play.

You know the scenario. You’re out driving around, crossing things off the honey-do list, when suddenly the rumble of the road is overtaken by the rumbling of the tummy.

You’re far from home and still needing to finish some errands, so what do you do? Yep, cruise through the drive-thru.

According to The NPD Group, a market research firm, roughly 12.4 billion trips were made by customers in 2011 and 2012.

July 24 was National Drive-thru Day, which celebrated this convenient approach to grabbing a quick bite.
So having had National Drive-thru Day, we started to look into the concept further, and here’s what we found.

A brief history

As the story goes, the original idea of the drive-thru was spawned in the 1930s with banks and drive-up tellers. The very first drive-through restaurant is said to be Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri.

Sheldon “Red” Chaney had the good fortune of being located along the famous Route 66, which saw thousands of automobiles cruising the American highway. Guests to this original drive-thru could get hamburgers, a bowl of brown beans and homemade root beer, among other items.

Though the building was bulldozed in the 1990s, a replica sign of Red’s has been erected in the city to keep the name and concept continuing on.

Not to be confused with the drive-thru, the drive-in was spawned a decade before the “thru” on a side road in Dallas, Texas. The roadside barbecue restaurant, called Kirby’s Pig Stand, opened in 1921 and included on its menu chicken-fried steak sandwiches, deep-fried onion rings and Texas toast. Today’s Sonic restaurants keep the tradition of the drive-in of old intact.

Modern times

Today there are more than 211,000 fast food restaurants in the United States. An article on thrillist ranks Texas as the state which does fast food best with California coming in second.

And which fast food restaurant ranks the highest these days? According to a recent report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Chick-fil-A.

No matter which state you live or which fast food option is your go-to, it’s hard to argue that there has been a boom in popularity from the very first drive-in/drive-through to today’s version.

Written by:

Competitive Rates

Lower your monthly car payments by applying for a car loan with

Apply for a Loan

*View disclosures & offer information
Dodge Charger