Nothing may be more American than apple pie, but nothing is more in America’s dietary wheelhouse than the drive-thru (or drive-through if you’re a grammar curmudgeon). So I conducted a bit of an experiment.
It was not an experiment of Super Size Me proportions — more of a survey.
I went to three restaurants and asked them what they sold the most. (Yes, I was THAT guy.)
McDonald’s was, for years, the king of the drive-up. So it only makes sense that they are now king of the drive-thru. It’s the only way to serve billions and billions. Whether that’s people, meals, burgers, I have no idea. But it’s about three times as much as the amount of money I have. Maybe more times. I’ve never been great at math.
There are no surprises. The Big Mac is the top dog at McDonald’s. I dislike pickle, and ordered mine without. Sure enough, order accuracy was spot on. I also requested their “tastiest french fry,” and while they SAID they only serve one fry, I’m pretty sure they went in back and got me something tastier. I just love McDonald’s fries. I’ve brought them as a gift for job interviewers before and gotten the job, so apparently I’m not alone.
The second window was open, and the girl had a bag with my food ready as I pulled up. Huge expediency points for McDonald’s. The Big Mac also wins points for being the best-presented of drive-thru entrees. Which is huge for them, because I actually gave the bag quite a jostling as I negotiated the doorways to my home while jostling my other bag, my massive drive-thru gut.
The McDonald’s Good: Food was served so fast it was almost like they knew I’d be ordering one ahead of time…
The McDonald’s Bad: I’m not sure why, but they apparently charge for sauces now. I laid out 52 cents for two barbecue sauces for my french fries. Which uncharacteristically didn’t give up on me halfway through the meal.
The manager on shift here told me that they sell a whole bunch of Single Bacon Deluxes. Being the connoisseur of bacon that I am, I jumped at that. I ordered up the combo, but declined to go large with it. Having been to Wendy’s before, I knew that a medium would be more than enough fries and drink for me.
Now this burger was explosive with flavors. The bacon provided strong flavors, supported by its salt content, and the mayonnaise counteracted it perfectly. Anchoring the delicate balance was a beef patty that may have been fresh, and may have been all beef, but was as thin as a few sheets of notebook paper. McDonald’s got away with that in this challenge by giving me two patties on its Big Mac offering. No such latitude for Wendy’s.
Wendy’s (in my opinion) has just always had terrible fries. Several months back they promoted a new cut of potato salted up with sea salt as a way to reinvigorate their fry sales. The first time I had them, they were actually pretty good. But now it seems as though Wendy’s has gone back to its old method of just washing their fries in salt.
It’s too much, Wendy’s. It hasn’t worked for the last 20 years, please just give up on the salt already.
The Wendy’s Good: That Single Bacon Deluxe really popped with flavor, and left me craving more after I’d finished.
The Wendy’s Bad: I’ve never made my own french fries, but it’s apparently a brutal undertaking. Wendy’s hasn’t gotten it right in as long as I can remember.
At some point, I’m hoping that someone who works for Yorkville’s Burger King will actually go outside and look at the Burger King. There are two windows at the drive-thru. In the last 10 years, they have used them both maybe once. They should have a plaque to commemorate that occasion. Every time you go, they take your money at the second window, and then have you “pull forward and (they) will bring that right out to you.”
This was one of those times, despite going at an otherwise slow time when there looked to be one family eating inside.
But I’m a sucker for a Whopper, so I’ve gone and suffered through this glaring inefficiency that drive-thrus are supposed to eliminate several times. This time, I went and ordered a Whopper with no pickle and no tomato, with a Diet Coke. They heard the no-tomato part, but I still had pickle and they tried to saddle my diabetic self with a full-strength Coca Cola. I expect a little better order accuracy than 33 percent when I’m spending that kind of coin.
Otherwise, the food was fine. BK has good fries when you get them fresh, which these were. The Whopper, however, was easily the least photogenic of my drive-thru choices but still incredibly taste-laden.
The Burger King Good: I didn’t have to make it myself, and the fries were actually fresh.
The Burger King Bad: They don’t understand the concepts of drive-thru, order accuracy, or presentation.
And the winner is: Coming into this, I’d expected McDonald’s to come out on top, but Wendy’s simply beat them on taste. Great speed and good order accuracy combine with an offer of free sauces and condiments to be the best drive-thru experience in Yorkville.