In 1978, Australia’s first McDonald’s Drive-Thru opened in Warrawong, New South Wales. This was just three years after their first American drive-thru, which opened in Arizona in 1975. It’s suggested that the Sierra Vista drive-thru was set up to cater to customers from the nearby military base who weren’t permitted to get out of their cars while wearing fatigues.
McDonald’s Drive-Thru wasn’t the first burger chain in Australia to offer ordering, payment and pickup without getting out of your car. They were pre-empted by Hartees – a short-lived burger group founded by Kelloggs in partnership with the US-based Hardees burger chain. The first Hartees opened in Earlwood, Sydney, in 1970 and in 1972 four more stores appeared, with a revolutionary new feature: drive-thru. In 1975, however, after a scandal involving dog food in one store’s hamburgers, the chain closed down.
In Australia, the drive-thru became an essential part of many fast-food operations. History seems not to record when Kentucky Fried Chicken introduced its first drive-thru in the USA, or in Australia. But these days speeding through and grabbing a Twister or a bucket of chicken is something we take for granted. In 2019, the world’s first drive-thru only KFC opened in a suburb of Newcastle, with five drive-thru lanes.
Now everyone – including Gloria Jeans, Donut King and Coffee Club – are getting in on the drive-thru business. Convenience and time saving, it seems, are everything. Will the rise of home delivery have an impact on drive-thru operations? That remains to be seen.