National Drive-Thru Day on July 24 celebrates the fact we can pick up and eat a meal without having to leave the comfort of our car. We may take it for granted but eating in our cars is a privilege that would have sounded bonkers had you suggested it a hundred years ago. With that in mind, this day is for celebrating those establishments who allow us to take multitasking to a whole new level. Pick your favorite drive-thru and go grab yourself a bite to eat.
History of National Drive-Thru Day
The first drive-thru is believed to have been at Red’s Giant Hamburg on Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri in 1947. In 1948 the original In-N Out Burger opened a drive-thru, which is now the longest surviving drive-thru in the U.S.
In 1951 Jack in the Box created the first drive-thru chain to try and capitalize on the rapidly growing automobile culture. The first store was in San Diego and was drive-thru only, offering customers the chance to grab a hamburger for 18¢.
You may think of drive-thru and instantly think of McDonald’s. Well, you may be a little surprised to know that it was 1975 when they opened their first drive-thru. McDonald’s already had over 3,000 stores worldwide at the time and were well on their way to becoming the global leader in fast-food.
The drive-thru became so popular that it started to influence car design. In 1983 the cupholder as we know started to appear in cars. National Drive-Thru Day was created in 2002 and was founded by the original drive-thru chain, Jack in the Box.
National Drive-Thru Day timeline
McDonalds’ restaurants begin opening drive-thrus
McDonald’s launched its first drive-thru restaurant in 1975 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. By that time, McDonald’s had 3,000 restaurants worldwide and was opening new locations in the Bahamas, Nicaragua, and Hong Kong.
Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box first launched in San Diego in 1951 and originally only offered drive-thru service. On National Drive-Thru Day, eClub members can get a free shake with their order.
Red’s Giant Hamburg
Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri opened the drive-thru in 1947.
The City Center Bank
Even though Jack in the Box was the first drive-thru burger chain, it wasn’t the first drive-thru. That honor goes to a bank calledThe City Center Bank in Syracuse, New York. The bank debuted its drive-thru in 1928.
National Drive-Thru Day FAQs
What is the longest-running drive-thru restaurant?
In-N Out Burger has been opened in Los Angeles since 1948 and has been running its business since.
When is the best time to drive through a fast-food joint?
The best time would be early afternoon in the window between lunch and dinner. You’ll have the breeziest time picking up your order.
When is National Drive-Thru Day?
How To Celebrate National Drive-Thru Day
Try a new drive-thru
Use this special day to get out of your drive-thru comfort zone and experience someplace different. If you're normally a McDonald's visitor, try a Burger King, or branch out even further and visit a Taco Bell, a Jack In the Box, or another new-to-you restaurant.
Look for special deals
Many fast food restaurants love National Drive-Thru Day as much as we do and will be offering fun specials to celebrate. Follow your favorites on social media or check their websites to find out about deals near you.
Invite your friends
Go all-out and grab a group of friends to celebrate together. Pile into a mini-van, turn up the radio, and hit your favorite drive-thrus — hamburgers at this one, milkshakes at the next, french fries at the next.
5 Facts About National Drive-Thru Day
We love fast food
There are more than 224,000 fast-food restaurants in the United States. These restaurants hire over 3.5 million people, bringing in more than $185 billion in sales each year.
It shares the date with other national holidays
July 24 is also National Tequila Day and National Cousins Day.
It was originally created for banks
The drive-thru format was created in the United States for banking services.
Mid-afternoon is the best time to go
During mid-afternoon is when drive-thrus are not only the fastest but friendliest as well. The optimal time of day to hit the drive-thru is the mid-afternoon “snack” period when wait times average 173 seconds.
Drive-thru design heavily influences what we order
Have you ever noticed how appetizing photos of chicken nuggets and burgers look on drive-thru boards? Well, these boards are designed this way to attract customers.
Why We Love National Drive-Thru Day
Drive-thrus take laziness to a new level of acceptability
Drive-thrus are meant to be used. Why go to the trouble of finding a parking spot, walking to the restaurant, standing in line, waiting for your order, and having to remember where you parked your car when the restaurant has kindly given you a way to skip all those steps?
Drive-thrus force us to clean our cars regularly
An unfortunate side effect of in-car dining is some messiness can occur: dropped french fries, mislaid ketchup packets, muffin crumbs, and tortilla chips. But a clean car is a happy car (and a happy car owner), so drive-thrus can be a great motivator for a car wash.
Drive-thrus are not just for dinner anymore
It’s not only food that gets passed from one open window to another these days: businesses from banks to pharmacies have also embraced the drive-thru, ensuring we never have to get out of our cars unless we want to (or miss the end of a favorite song or podcast).
National Drive-Thru Day dates