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The History of the Drive-Thru

While the first drive-ins were established in 1921 by a chain of restaurants in Texas called the Pig Stand, the first true drive-thru wasn’t created until the 1940s. There are several establishments that claim to have implemented the first drive-thru, however, it was In-N-Out Burger in Baldwin Park, California that established the first drive-thru – complete with an intercom ordering system – in 1948. Soon after, other chains like Wendy’s and Jack-in-the-Box adopted the drive-thru model, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the drive-thru became mainstream. At that time, major fast-food restaurants began to add a drive-thru window, most notably McDonald’s, which opened its first drive-thru in 1975. The success of the drive-thru was bolstered by the increase in the number of women working outside the home in the 1970s – this new normal meant that fast, inexpensive meals were becoming more popular with families. Today, the drive-thru remains popular – in fact, approximately 70% of the billions of dollars that fast-food restaurants earn each year comes from drive-thrus!

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