UK Drive-Thru Habits

2 Posted: 2nd Oct 2023
UK Drive-Thru Habits
  • In the United Kingdom, we have over 2,000 drive-thrus all across the nation and a drive-thru meal is not uncommon for most people. Some like to have one as a treat, whereas others may prefer to order for convenience.

    Group 1 Automotive wanted to dig deep into the drive-thru habits of the UK, and reveal key information about the fast food frenzy driving the nation crazy.

    Throughout the research, we reveal the UK’s favourite (and least favourite) fast food items, how much Brits spend at a drive-thru every year, and the road safety elements of a drive thru, by investigating the potential hazards that drivers can face.


    The UK’s favourite drive-thru

  • The UK’s favourite drive-thru

    When it comes to drive-thru dining, there’s an undisputed favourite, and it’s no other than McDonald’s. With their presence dating back to 1986 when the very first UK drive-thru opened in Fallowfield, Manchester, McDonald's quickly established itself as a household name in the world of convenient, fast food dining for drivers. 

    Now, with 938 locations, McDonald’s accounts for almost half of the UK’s total drive-thru count. Not only that, but it holds the top spot when it comes to the UK’s favourite drive-thru restaurant with a whopping 65% of the people surveyed reporting it as their favourite spot for a bite to eat.

    From our analysis, the top restaurants for drive-thru food were:

    • McDonald's
    • KFC
    • Starbucks
    • Burger King
    • Costa Coffee

    Through our research, we also uncovered some shocking statistics revealing the spending habits of Brits at drive-thru restaurants. On average, the majority of Brits (45%) spend approximately £10.30 each time they visit a drive-thru restaurant. As well as this, Brits visit a drive-thru roughly 58 times a year - more than once per week!

    When we combine this information, the average amount of money Brits spend on fast food treats equates to an astonishing £595.34 per year.


    The UK’s favourite fast food

  • The UK’s favourite fast food

    When asked about their favourite type of fast food, the results showed a clear link to the top drive-thru restaurants.

    The number one favourite fast food item revealed from our data was, unsurprisingly, burgers. McDonald's themselves reported that, on average, they serve around 3.5 million customers per day in the UK, and the menu consists of many different variations of burgers. But how many burgers is that a day you ask? We dread to think!

    To complete the top three favourite fast food items, fried chicken (11%), and wraps and sandwiches (10%) followed suit.

    Other favourite fast food items revealed from the data were chicken nuggets (9%), hot drinks (7%), and breakfast rolls (3%). All of these foods appear on the McDonald’s menu, further solidifying its status as the UK’s favourite drive-thru with its popular menu items.

    We also asked our survey respondents what their least favourite drive-thru food item was, and salads/pasta pots came in at number one with 26% of people selecting this as their answer.

    When looking further into the public’s favourite fast food, we asked them what their thoughts were on the healthiness of the menu options at drive-thru restaurants.

    Almost half of all respondents (48%) stated that they did not try to actively seek out a healthy option at a drive-thru. Whereas, in contrast, 43% of people wished they had more healthy choices available to them.

    66% of respondents also admit they would like to see other drive-thru restaurants come to light in the UK, such as Chinese, Japanese, or Italian. Could this be the future of drive-thrus?

    Are drive-thrus a hazard?

  • Are drive-thrus a hazard?

    We can confirm that drive-thrus are known for their convenience, tasty offerings, and simplicity. However, an essential question lingers – are they safe?

    We asked our respondents if they had encountered any incidents involving vehicle damage, or near misses while using drive-thru facilities.

    According to our research, an astonishing 1 in 10 individuals reported damaging their vehicle at a drive-thru. The leading causes of such mishaps were credited to road layout issues, affecting 1 in 20 drivers, and interactions with other drivers at the location, also reported by 1 in 20 cases.

    Furthermore, our survey unveiled that 1 in 4 respondents have narrowly escaped damaging their vehicles at a drive-thru. Of these near misses, 1 in 6 cited the road layout as the primary concern, while 1 in 9 referred to the actions of other drivers as the main factor.

    To look further into the reasons why these accidents may happen, we asked our respondents where they typically eat their drive-thru orders, and the data revealed:

    • 36% of people take their food home with them
    • 22% of people eat their food in the car park of the drive-thru restaurant
    • 11% of people eat their food in a scenic area such as a beach or a park

    With 22% of people eating their food in the car park of the drive-thru, could this be a big contributing factor into the drive-thru hazards that people can face? One of the reasons customers may often enjoy their drive-thru meals in the restaurant’s car park is to prevent it from getting cold and to avoid the idea of rushing home to eat, which could be dangerous for them, and other drivers on the roads.
    The same percentage also agreed that they can get easily distracted when eating whilst driving, so with a build-up of stationary cars and distracted drivers, it’s clear to see how it can be hazardous to navigate your way around drive-thru restaurants, further increasing the risk of accidents.

    It is evident that while drive-thru may be synonymous with convenience and tasty treats, caution is essential for customers driving through these fast food restaurants, and road safety is key to remember.


    The research was conducted via a Censuswide survey of 2,046 Drivers in the UK who visit drive-through restaurants (aged 17+). The survey was conducted between 18.08.2023 - 22.08.2023. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society, which are based on the ESOMAR principles.

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