Expert’s advice: Don’t waste gas in idle time at fast-food windows
Friday, June 05, 2009
BY T.W. BURGER firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Davis has a pet peeve.
The retired Navy submariner and PECO energy-efficiency expert sees long lines of vehicles sitting in line at fast-food restaurant drive-through windows and it drives him crazy.
Davis is no off-the-wall crackpot. He has done his homework, counting cars at fast-food joints near his home in South Lebanon Twp., doing research and interviewing the owner of one of the stores.
The way Davis figures it, drivers waste $103,000 or more in gas a year waiting in line for food at just those three restaurants. That’s a considerable amount of money for people to sit and wait for a burger and fries — while tables inside sit empty.
“It’s a big waste,” said Davis, 74. “I talked to the owner at the place down the road. He said 75 percent of his business is at the drive-through.”
So, what is the solution?
Davis has one of those, “well, DOH!” answers.
“People should just go into the store,” he said. “Half the time you go in and the drive-through will have a long line, and the inside isn’t busy at all. The only ones using the windows should be the disabled or people with kids in the back of the car. Is that good sense, or what? What’s hard about that?”
Critics have long said drive-through restaurants add to pollution and waste resources and fuel the nation’s collective obesity.
National Restaurant Association officials have said, through prepared statements, that the choice to use the drive-through or go inside is one made by consumers.
So, is the drive-through really faster?
In an admittedly unscientific test, a crack investigative team — namely, this reporter — picked a fast-food franchise at random in Lower Paxton Twp. at lunchtime Thursday to see how the drive-through compared to getting lunch from the counter.
There were eight vehicles in line. The 4×4 pickup ahead of us jackrabbited away each time the sedan in front of him moved forward. He gunned to the window too fast and stopped too far away to grab the bag from the attendant. He had to lean way out the window to get his lunch and change. Very cool.
The elapsed time from when we entered the line until we were handed the bag of food? Nine minutes, not including the time spent sticking change into a pocket after we left the line.
We parked, walked in, and ordered a coffee to go with the sandwich.
It took seven minutes, from car door to car door.
OK, it was only two minutes faster. But that was seven minutes when the car was not running.
Using the information that Davis has collected, the average wait in a drive-through line uses enough gas to go five to six miles. Those seven vehicles in line ahead of us sucked down enough fuel to drive about 40 miles.
By the way, about half of the tables inside the restaurant were open. At lunchtime.
Davis and a herd of environmentalists and economists with him believe that if Americans simply become more efficient in their lifestyles, dependence on imported oil would no longer be an issue.
“How many guys have spilled their blood so that we can drive our cars?” Davis asked, rhetorically. “We have to be more mindful of what we’re doing.
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