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 but has since spread to other countries.
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". 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). According to author Michael Karl Witzel, drive-through windows were a method first tested as far back as 1931 by the Texas Pig Stand chain. 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. 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. 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." However, according to Michael Wallis, author of Route 66: The Mother Road, and known to U.S. Route 66 historians and enthusiasts, Red's Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri is home to "the world's first drive-through window".
Sierra Vista, Arizona, was the first city to have a McDonald's drive-through. The first McDonald’s drive-through 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. In Spain and Russia, McDonald's drive-through services are often called McAuto. In the Netherlands, Germany, France, and other northern European countries, McDonald's drive-through service is called McDrive. In Argentina, McDonald's drive-through service is called AutoMAC.