Chipotle, Starbucks best in order-ahead wait times: Rakuten 2020 Time Study

Chipotle tops QSR order-ahead in-store pickup category

According to an annual assessment by Rakuten Ready in its “2020 Time Study”, order-head pickup efficiency has become increasingly important in today’s time-starved and pandemic-concerned world. While the results were a bit surprising this year, QSR was the only segment that maintained top time ratings. The study examines the wait times among several restaurant chains juxtaposed against customer satisfaction scores. This year, Rakuten Ready added a new casual-dining segment for assessment and evaluation.

Chipotle tops in-store pickup scores

“Consumer behavior has changed, so brands must continue to innovate around contactless – it’s not just a short term trend, it is here to stay,” noted Rakuten Ready. Among QSRs, Chipotle’s 1:54 time for in-store pickup was the best last year and also this year. Chipotle also delivered some of the highest CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) scores—not surprising for a chain that has invested heavily in the digital experience.

Chick-fil-A almost fell from grace, with a wait time three-fold longer than last year’s. Yet this chicken QSR has such high customer loyalty and brand recognition that it was able to maintain a high CSAT score. Customers were certainly forgiving of the longer wait times; in fact, Rakuten Ready was quick to point out that the sharp increase in demand for Chick-fil-A’s products may have contributed to these times.

Rakuten Ready, which is a company that provides app-based solutions for order-ahead pickup, identified Starbucks, Domino’s, Dunkin’ and Taco Bell as additional chains that were able to deliver short wait times and high customer satisfaction scores.


Considering that the annual growth rate for demand for order-head pickup was 35 percent last year and increased to nearly 60 percent this year, it’s clear that the COVID-19 health crisis has multiplied the demand for order-ahead pickup. It’s a “tidal wave of demand,” suggests the report—one that is unlikely to dissipate.

Among casual-dining restaurant chains (to which Panera Bread has now been added), TGIF posted the best wait time at 3:09. While it beat Panera’s time, it did not overcome the high customer satisfaction score Panera posted. Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill and Buffalo Wild Wings were additional restaurant chains included by Rakuten Ready in this category.

Drive-thru order-ahead and curbside

In the drive-thru arena, Starbucks was a clear winner at a wait time of 2:51. Pizza Hut also performed admirably with a wait time of 5:21, although the experience was noted as somewhat confusing. Meanwhile, “Starbucks had a consistently easy and positive experience across all trips.”

When it was time to deliver curbside, casual-dining chains demonstrated an ability to get orders delivered within three minutes. A surprise to some might be Olive Garden, which posted a 2:59 wait time. Panera Bread delivered a higher CSAT score although it did not meet Olive Garden’s time. Applebee’s was among the casual-dining restaurant chains that also produced short wait times.


Looking ahead

The process of running a restaurant amid a pandemic and in an environment of higher customer expectations is not easy. And the competition isn’t just other restaurants. Grocers are also promoting curbside pickup and delivery, increasing offerings and creating a streamlined path for consumers to get their food on demand. This makes order-ahead pickup an essential battleground for restaurants. One strategy is to focus on wait times and deliver on that metric. This goes for all types of restaurants, whether chains or independent. Another Rakuten Ready recommended practice is to allocate sufficient resources and collateral to the pickup experience; examples are clearly marked signage and team-member training.

Promoting the order-ahead program is another crucial practice. After investing time and restaurant man-hours to institute or streamline a program, the way to get traction is to get the word out. For additional channel-specific recommendations in the Rakuten Ready whitepaper, navigate here to learn more

Photo credit: Starbucks (featured preview image)

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