Maid-Rite in Springfield, Illinois, is one claimant of the first drive-thru window.
Some fast food chains, such as this Rally's located near New Orleans, LA, have two drive-throughs.
Drive-through mailboxes in USA.

A drive-through, or drive-thru, is a type of service provided by a business that allows customers to purchase products without leaving their cars. The format was first pioneered in the United States in the 1930s[1] but has since spread to other countries. The first recorded use of a bank using a drive up window teller was the Grand National Bank of St. Louis, Missouri in 1930. The drive up teller only allowed deposits at that time period. [2]

Orders are generally placed using a microphone and picked up in person at the window. A drive-through is different from a drive-in in several ways— The cars create a line and move in one direction in drive-throughs, and do not park, whereas drive-ins allow cars to park next to each other, the food is generally brought to the window by a server, called a carhop, and the customer can remain in the parked car to eat.

Drive-throughs have generally replaced drive-ins in popular culture, and are now found in the vast majority of modern American fast-food chains. Sometimes, a store with a drive-through is referred to as a "drive-through," or the term is attached to the service, such as, "drive-through restaurant," or "drive-through bank."

Drive-thrus typically have signs over the drive-thru lanes to show customers which lanes are open for business. The types of signage used is usually illuminated so the "open-type" message can be changed to a closed-type message when the lane is not available.



McDonald's first two-lane drive-through was at the Rock N Roll McDonald's in Chicago.
  • Alcohol at a drive-through liquor store
  • Banking services at a drive-through bank
  • Postal services at a drive-through mailbox
  • Coffee at a drive-through coffee shop
  • Dairy products at a drive-through dairy store (notably the Skinner Dairy shops of North-East Florida or Dairy Barn in Long Island)
  • Prescriptions at a drive-through pharmacy
  • Food or drink at a drive-through restaurant (typically fast food)
  • Marriage (primarily at special drive-through marriage chapels in Las Vegas in the United States)
  • Funeral home where mourners can drive by and view the remains of their loved ones through windows.[3]
  • Pennsylvania State Representative Kevin P. Murphy installed a drive-through window designed to speed constituent service.[4]


A typical Australian McDonald's drive through with speaker.

A drive-through restaurant generally consists of:

  • A speaker and microphone, or a window, for customers to order from
  • A speaker and microphone or wireless headset system for employees to hear the customer's order (when a speaker is used)
  • A trigger pad beneath the concrete to activate the microphone and headset, possibly augmented with a CCTV camera
  • One or more free-standing signs listing the menu items, called a menu board
  • Newer drive-throughs feature a LCD or LED display within the speaker system in order to show the full order and total cost to avert order errors through miscommunication. At many Yum! Brands restaurants a secondary display featuring the total is placed directly next to the order window.
  • One or more windows where employees interact with customers by taking the order and money and/or giving the customer the order

Drive-through designs are different from restaurant to restaurant; however, most drive-throughs can accommodate four to six passenger cars or trucks at once (called the queue).[citation needed]

In-n-Out Burger claims to have built the first drive-through restaurant in 1948. Harry and Esther Snyder, the chain's founders, built their first restaurant in Baldwin Park, California, with a two-way speaker to enable patrons to order directly from their cars without the intermediation of a carhop.[5] Maid-Rite also claims to have had the first drive through window. Other sources cite Jack in the Box as the first major restaurant specifically designed as a drive-through and featuring a two-way intercom.[6] The first Jack in the Box opened in 1951 in San Diego. The drive-through concept was so unfamiliar to people at the time that the Jack in the Box "clown," where the speaker was housed, held a sign saying, "Pull forward, Jack will speak to you."


Sierra Vista, Arizona, was the first city to have a McDonald's drive-through. The first McDonald’s drive-thru was created in 1975 near Fort Huachuca, a military base located adjacent to the city—to serve soldiers who weren’t permitted to get out of their cars while wearing fatigues.( The original McDonald's was closed down and demolished in May 1999 and a new McDonald's replaced it.

The first drive-through restaurant (a McDonald's drive-through) in Europe opened at the Nutgrove Shopping Centre in Dublin, Ireland in 1985.[7]

In Spain and Russia, McDonald's drive-thru services are often called McAuto.

In the Netherlands, Germany France and other northern European countries, McDonald's drive-thru service is called McDrive.

In Argentina, McDonald's drive-thru service is called AutoMAC.


A drive-through shared by a bank and a coffee shop.

In 1928, City Center Bank, which became UMB Financial Corporation, president R. Crosby Kemper opened what is considered the first drive-up window. Shortly after the Grand National Bank in St Louis opened up a drive through, including a slot to the side for night time deposits. [8] On the page 8 of the December 15, 1940, issue of the Syracuse Herald Journal, Merchant's Bank of Syracuse, New York, ran an advertisement for the newly opened "Drive-In Teller Service" located on the side of their bank building on South Warren Street in downtown Syracuse. Westminster Bank, impressed by the concept, opened the UK's first drive-through bank in Liverpool in 1959, soon followed by Ulster Bank opening Ireland's first in 1961 at Finaghy.[9]

In recent years, there has been a decline in drive-through banking due to increased traffic congestion and the increased availability of automated teller machines and telephone and Internet banking.[citation needed] However, many bank buildings now feature drive-through ATMs.

In Mexico some areas of medium-high class have ATM Drive Through Facilities like in Huixquilucan,Estado de Mexico

Non-car usage

Some businesses are built only for drive-through service, like this espresso shop.

Pedestrians sometimes attempt to walk through the drive-through to order food after the seated section of a fast-food restaurant has closed. Many establishments refuse drive-through service to pedestrians for safety, insurance, and liability reasons, such as Jack in the Box.[10] Cyclists are usually refused service with the same justification given. [11] However, in the summer of 2009, Burgerville gave use of the drive-thru window to bicyclists.[12] Similar issues can arise in rural areas for people on horseback or in a horse-drawn carriage. [13]

A drive thru only Tim Hortons location in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

See also


  1. ^ Robert J. Sickels (ed), The 1940s, Greenwood Press, 2004, p. 107.
  2. ^ "Autoists Do Banking From Their Cars" Popular Mechanics Monthly, July 1930, bottom left pg 13
  3. ^ Hendin, David~~~~ (1973). Death as a Fact of Life. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. pp. 221. ISBN 0393085406. 
  4. ^ "Want fries with that legislative help?". Pittsburgh Post Gazette (PG Publishing Co.). 2009-04-18. [dead link]
  5. ^ "In-N-Out Burger - homepage". 2008-06-09. 
  6. ^ Langdon, Philip, Orange Roofs, Golden Arches: The architecture of American chain restaurants, page 104, Knopf, 1986, ISBN 978-0394544014
  7. ^ First Drive Thru in Europe in Nutgrove, Dublin, Ireland
  8. ^ "Autoists Do Banking From Cars" Popular Mechanics, July 1930 - article and photo bottom of page 13
  9. ^ Ulster Bank drive-though banking history
  10. ^ See Chude v. Jack in the Box, 185 Cal. App. 4th 37 (2010). In this case, Jack in the Box successfully invoked the California Personal Responsibility Act of 1996 against an uninsured driver who spilled hot coffee on herself in the drive-through, then suffered second-degree burns because the wall of the restaurant prevented her from opening her car door and escaping the hot coffee on her car seat. Under the Act, plaintiff's lack of vehicle insurance barred her from recovering noneconomic damages, which form the bulk of damages in many U.S. personal injury cases. The Court of Appeal reasoned that the burn injury was reasonably related to the operation of a motor vehicle because Jack in the Box, in accordance with its strict policy, would not have served her if she had approached the drive-through window on foot; and because her injuries were exacerbated by the fact she was sitting in a car.
  11. ^ Live Alive: Burger King Drive-Through Refused to Serve me on a bicycle
  12. ^ Rose, Joseph (August 13, 2009). "Burgerville to biking mom: No burgers for you!". Oregon Live. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  13. ^ "We don't do à la CART: McDonald's drive-thru refuses to serve woman in horse-drawn carriage... so she went to KFC". Daily Mail. May 26, 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • drive-through — ˈdrive through adjective [only before a noun] a drive through bank, restaurant etc is one that you can use without getting out of your car: • drive through pizza restaurants drive through noun [countable] * * * drive through UK US (US INFORMAL… …   Financial and business terms

  • drive-through — drive ,through1 adjective a drive through restaurant, bank, etc. is one where you are served through a window without leaving your car drive through drive ,through 2 noun count a restaurant, bank, etc. that serves you through a special window so… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • drive-through — a. arranged to allow business to be transacted or sights to be seen while patrons remain in their vehicles; as, a drive through car wash; a drive through safari park. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • drive-through — (adj.) 1949 (in an advertisement for the Beer Vault Drive Thru in Ann Arbor, Michigan), from DRIVE (Cf. drive) (v.) + THROUGH (Cf. through) …   Etymology dictionary

  • drive-through — [drīv′thro͞o΄] adj. 1. designating or of a window from which service is provided to those driving through in their motor vehicles 2. of a restaurant, bank, etc. or its employee that provides such a service [a drive through teller] n. such a… …   English World dictionary

  • drive-through — also drive thru n a restaurant, bank etc where you can be served without getting out of your car …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • drive-through — /druyv throoh /, n. 1. the act of driving through a specified locality or place, esp. driving into a place of business, completing a transaction from one s car, and driving out: a quick drive through of Beverly Hills; The bank has outside tellers …   Universalium

  • drive-through — I. adjective also drive thru ˈ ̷ ̷ ˌ ̷ ̷ Etymology: from the phrase drive through 1. : drive up herein 2. : designed …   Useful english dictionary

  • drive-through — 1. adjective a) Of an establishment, providing service to occupants of automobiles while still in their still running vehicle. I switched banks so that I could use a drive through branch near my home. b) Of a feature of such an establishment… …   Wiktionary

  • drive-through — I UK / US adjective a drive through restaurant, bank etc is one where you are served through a window without leaving your car II UK / US noun [countable] Word forms drive through : singular drive through plural drive throughs a restaurant, bank… …   English dictionary

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