The first McDonald’s Drive Thru was inspired by U.S. Army soldiers stationed at Fort Huachuca Army Base

vintage McDonald's restaurant

November 11, 2022

Drive Thru is often synonymous with McDonald’s restaurants. In fact, the Drive Thru currently accounts for roughly 70% of our U.S. business. But, for the first 20 years of McDonald’s this wasn’t the case. 

In the early 1970s, McDonald’s red and white tiled stores were being remodeled but rival fast-food chains on the West Coast had already incorporated the Drive Thru into their dining experience. In 1974 the McDonald’s Dallas regional manager brought up the idea to the vice president at the time, Brent Cameron, to add the Drive Thru to our very own McDonald’s restaurants. 

Plans take a turn...

Brent had also been approached by regional managers from Los Angeles and San Diego about the possibility. So, he approved the proposition for a Drive Thru and the Dallas regional manager decided that a store located in Oklahoma City would be the perfect fit. 

Their design featured a four-column roof garden themed Drive Thru that allowed for two cars to remain covered while ordering. The layout and equipment for the store's Drive Thru was planned for late October of 1974, but the project was delayed when the decision was to undertake a complete remodel of the red and white store.  

The first Drive Thru was born 

Word of the project quickly spread and got many McDonald's Owner/Operators thinking about the potential of a Drive Thru. Shortly after the pause on the original launch, a Drive Thru was opened in Sierra Vista, Arizona on January 24,1975. 

road sign pointing to McDonald's Drive Thru

The inspiration to move forward stemmed from soldiers located at Fort Huachuca Army Base. The restaurant was experiencing a decline in sales because soldiers had to follow the rule of staying in their vehicles when wearing fatigues or also known as Army uniforms, when off base.

black and white photo of customer going through Drive Thru

Licensee David Rich solved this problem by installing a sliding window in the wall to facilitate Drive Thru orders. And just like that, McDonald’s first Drive Thru was born in Arizona. Soon after many started popping up all over the U.S., and the original Drive Thru planned for the Oklahoma City location was eventually created and drew up a 40% increase in sales. 

The Drive Thru has always been an important place for innovation, we’re inspired by the initiative to make the McDonald’s experience easier for our service men and women many years ago, and by the many franchisees that have continued to innovate throughout the years. We can’t wait to see what’s next.