Drive-Thru Etiquette, a Handy Reference Guide

As promised, here is the first installment of Drive-Thru Etiquette, a Handy Reference Guide. The following recommendations are based on my true experiences as an employee working a drive-thru window and should be taken with a grain of salt, a wedge of lime, and a shot of espresso.

Please use the following legend to assist you as you browse this guide:

DT (Drive-Thru Window)
SB (Speaker Box, where the order is placed)
SW (Second Window, a nonexistent place I will ask you to pull forward to if you annoy me)
CCT (Customer Courtesy Tip)
EXR (Extraordinairly Rude Customer)

Smile, You’re on Camera

  1. FYI – Most DT’s have tiny cameras located at the SB. Don’t be creeped out – those cameras are invaluable in aiding the order-taking process. After all, it comes in handy to read lips when you get customers who mumble, order through cracked windows, or insist on leaving their diesel engines running.
  2. Having said that, when you are at the SB, don’t mock me, pick your nose, make faces, put up your finger to “shhss!” me, or otherwise act inappropriately. I can see you.

Wait Times

  1. If you are in a tremendous hurry, you probably do not have time to stop for coffee, so please don’t yell at me BEFORE I’VE EVEN SAID HELLO to tell me you are in a rush. Trust me, I want you out of my hair as quickly as possible.
  2. CCT #1- Please do not add to your order at the window if there is a long line of cars behind you. This increases the wait time of everyone behind you by minimum of sixty seconds and we all know that can feel like an eternity when you haven’t had your coffee.
  3. EXR – Please do not be irked at my speed of service when it’s not my fault that the three cars in front of you did not follow CCT #1.
  4. CCT #2 – Do not lollygag at the SB while cars stack up behind you. Ham? Bacon? Be decisive and move on.
  5. CCT #3 – Once you have placed your order at the SB, please pull up behind the next car in line. When you linger after you place an order and block the SB, I can’t expedite orders for the people behind you.

Medical Emergencies

  1. If your passenger is experiencing a possible stroke or heart attack, you should resist the urge to stop through the DT for coffee and instead proceed to the nearest ER.
  2. If you, against better judgement, stop for coffee anyway, please do not tell me I need to hurry because your passenger is having said medical emergency.
  3. If you discover an injured wild owl in your backyard and you are en-route to the zoo, you have no business stopping for hot chocolate. You probably have no business transporting the owl, either, but that’s not my department.

Let’s Talk

  1. You should always expect a friendly greeting when you pull up to the SB. We do not hire out prisoners in India to greet you nor do we use recordings. We are live people, inside the building before you, with very real feelings. Please do not cut me off while I am speaking. It is rude.
  2. Dear customer, please do not be agitated with me or cut me off when I am offering you a drink special or pastry pairing. It is my JOB to suggest add-ons for your order. A polite decline is all that’s required.
  3. Do not ask me how I am doing and then proceed to bark orders without giving me a chance to respond. We all know the “how are you’s” are just a formality, but it’s still polite to let the other person answer.
  4. For those of you who ask how we’re doing and give us the chance to respond, thank you for your genuine kindness. It is always appreciated.

I don’t want to overload you with information, so we’ll end today’s lesson here. Thank you for taking the time to read and learn. We appreciate your business.


2 thoughts on “Drive-Thru Etiquette, a Handy Reference Guide”

  1. Interesting…I never thought to ask a DT person how they are doing, I guess I figured they just want me out of their hair as quickly as possible and wouldn’t appreciate the extra banter!

    Also, I am ashamed to admit that when I got a diesel car for the first time a couple years ago, it didn’t even occur to me that my engine might cause problems in drivethrus. It took an annoyed KFC guy for me to get that I was being rude by leaving it on. I was so embarrassed! Now people ask me why I turn off my engine though, so maybe all in all it’s not common knowledge?

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