The Real Reason Why McDonald’s First Drive-thru Was Created (It’s not what you think)

A Dallas, Texas-based McDonald’s manager decided to remodel an Oklahoma City location in 1974. He intended to build a four-column portico with a garden theme outside the restaurant, which would be topped by a statue of Ronald McDonald in his full size.

Ronald McDonald would have speakers that could be utilised to receive orders from customers, according to AZ Central. Although it was intended to be extravagant, the first McDonald’s drive-thru was neither elaborate (it was literally simply a hole in the wall) nor did it belong to the state of Oklahoma.

According to QSR, the fast food juggernaut reportedly installed computerised drive-thru menu displays in 2019 that can automatically change food recommendations based on the time of day, weather, traffic, and most popular menu items.

Most likely, the investment will be worthwhile. According to The New York Times, up to 70% of McDonald’s sales as of 2020 came from drive-thru orders.

McDonald’s Drive-Thru Origins

In January 1975, McDonald’s first drive-thru opened. Restaurant manager David Rich of Sierra Vista, Arizona, made a hole in the wall of his McDonald’s location that was about the size of an attendant, according to AZ Central. It did not need to be glamorous, therefore it wasn’t. Rich made the sliding window so that troops, not people, would be drawn to it.

On their way to and from work in 1974, troops from Fort Huachuca would have daydreamed about burgers and fries while passing Rich’s McDonald’s.

None of them went to the restaurant since a standing rule forbade troops from appearing in uniform in public, making it impossible for them to enter to place an order without first changing into non-military attire.

Whatever the justification for the prohibition, Rich’s strategy was successful. According to AZ Central, Sierra Vistans still recall the “lines of the troops” that formed at McDonald’s first drive-thru window.

Later that spring, when the eagerly awaited Oklahoma City drive-thru finally opened, cash just rained down. In just two months, sales at one McDonald’s location increased by 40%.

Sources:

1. You won’t believe where McDonald’s opened its first drive-thruAZ Central

2. How McDonald’s Plans to Reinvent the Drive ThruQSR

3. Drive-Throughs Are Now a Lifeline for Fast-Food ChainsThe New York Times