Public Health Nutrition

Monitoring and surveillance

An observational study of consumer use of fast-food restaurant drive-through lanes: implications for menu labelling policy

Christina A Robertoa1 c1, Elena Hoffnaglea1, Marie A Bragga1 and Kelly D Brownella1

a1 Department of Psychology, The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, PO Box 208369, New Haven, CT 06511, USA


Objective Some versions of restaurant menu labelling legislation do not require energy information to be posted on menus for drive-through lanes. The present study was designed to quantify the number of customers who purchase fast food through drive-in windows as a means of informing legislative labelling efforts.

Design This was an observational study.

Setting The study took place at two McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants, and single Dairy Queen, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Wendy’s restaurants.

Subjects The number of customers entering the chain restaurants and purchasing food via the drive-through lane were recorded. A total of 3549 patrons were observed.

Results The percentage of customers who made their purchases at drive-throughs was fifty-seven. The overall average (57 %) is likely a conservative estimate because some fast-food restaurants have late-night hours when only the drive-throughs are open.

Conclusions Since nearly six in ten customers purchase food via the drive-through lanes, menu labelling legislation should mandate the inclusion of menu labels on drive-through menu boards to maximise the impact of this public health intervention.

(Received December 15 2009)

(Accepted January 19 2010)

(Online publication March 18 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email