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Possibility of new Chick-fil-A location has us asking: Why wait in a drive-thru line? For many, it’s convenience and comfort.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more consumers are likely to go through the drive-thru lane than order in the lobby, says a Gonzaga marketing professor who teaches on consumer behavior.  (Getty Images)

Much was made of the lengthy drive-thru lines that lasted hours when Chick-fil-A opened its long-awaited Spokane franchise at North Newport Highway in December 2020.

Folks are fairly patient in drive-thru lines at many fast food restaurants around the city. And Chick-fil-A lovers likely will have to be, if plans for a second location, slated to be near Gonzaga, are solidified. Even for restaurants that have been around for decades, it’s not uncommon to see cars in line for more than 10 minutes waiting at a drive-thru during the dinner rush, while there is no line at the register.

“The reason people stay in their cars, even if it’s a longer wait, is due to convenience,” a Wendy’s district manager from the Division Street restaurant said. “Sometimes people have kids and they don’t want to get out of the car to drag the kids in here and that’s understandable.

“We do our best to get their food to everyone as quickly as possible. But sometimes it takes longer, depending on what people order or if we’re short-staffed, but people are generally comfortable in their cars.”

Dr. Peggy Sue Loroz, a Gonzaga marketing professor, concurs.

“Cars have gotten more and more comfortable, and people have no problem staying in their protective bubbles, even if it means they wait longer for fast food,” Loroz said. “Their car has the right temperature, stereo sound, music, television, and your phone provides access to a wide range of entertainment. Why would you want to leave your automobile when you can easily kill time while waiting for your order?”

Another reason fast food lovers are removed from the interior of their favorite places for a quick bite is aesthetics – or the lack of them.

“Most fast food restaurants are not super comfortable and some might not be the cleanest or have the nicest atmosphere,” Loroz said. “The seats aren’t plush, like your car seats are. It might be too cold in the restaurant, but your car is the perfect temperature. There are so many reasons to just use drive-thru.”

According to Loroz, who teaches consumer behavior, fast food establishments like it that way.

“Think about it,” she said. “They would rather have you never set foot inside. The increase of mobile apps gives customers incentives for this type of behavior. There is a real cost to the restaurant when people enter.

“If there are no people in the restaurant, they don’t have to clean it.”

That goes back to the pandemic when there was only drive-thru.

“A lot of people were trained during the pandemic to just use the drive-thru,” Loroz said. “There was no choice and people got used to it and that’s where we are.”

Loroz, who resides between Medical Lake and Cheney, can sometimes be found at a McDonald’s drive-thru.

“I have a tradition of getting McDonald’s ice cream cones, and the french fries are so consistent,” Loroz said. “The fries are always delicious and our kids love them.”