How fast is fast enough?
It’s a question I asked myself after reading a story about the wait time at fast-food drive-up windows.
A new study showed that the wait in line at fast-food drive-up is about three minutes. This is eight seconds more than a year ago.
The study was conducted by QSR Magazine, which covers quick service and fast-casual restaurants, and Insula Research.
The longer wait times are attributed to the more complex menus now offered at fast-food restaurants, you know, like that lobster newberg you ordered at Taco Bell.
Also, more people are using drive-up facilities, up nine percent to 2.82 cars in line.
One bit of good news in the survey: The accuracy of the order you receive at the end of the drive-up window is 87 percent. This is up from 60 percent in the late 1990s.
Since newspapers and TV considered this survey news — and not just to the fast-food industry — it follows, or at least infers, that three minutes is not fast enough.
That may say more about us than it does about the fast-food industry.
We probably shouldn’t be surprised in a time of tweets and of movies consisting mostly of shoot-outs, car chases, drunken parties and very little dialogue.
We are a nation of short attention spans.
In fact, our attention span may be shrinking.
Attention span is the length of time during which someone is able to think about or remain interested in something. There are two kinds of attention span, short-term and long-term.
Short-term is called focused attention. In the year 2012, the focused attention span of Americans was eight seconds. In 2000, the focused attention span was 12 seconds.
Long-term is called sustained attention. That’s the level of attention that provides consistent results on a task over time. Our sustained attention span is no more than 40 minutes at a time.
So, where does that leave us as we wait for our burger and fries?
Do we have to have our burger in eight seconds?
Can we wait 40 minutes?
Three minutes doesn’t seem so long to wait.
Yes, the wait may be eight seconds longer than it used to be. But since our attention span is eight seconds, waiting in the drive up line gives those eight seconds to do one thing before being distracted.
Send a tweet, maybe?