Observing a McDonald’s Drive Through

McDonald's at Pape and Cosburn, Toronto, Ontario
Observing the McDonald’s drive-through at the corner of Pape and Cosburn, Toronto, Ontario

What can you observe in 30 minutes? Last February 20th I had lunch at a local McDonald’s. While looking out the window I could see cars stopping at the drive-through telecom to order food. What caught my attention was how many high end cars in a row were driving up to order McDonald’s. I decided to conduct a tiny ad hoc research project to see if there was anything to my initial observation. I began recording some observations. Within 30 minutes, between 1:25 and 2:15 pm, a total of twenty cars came to the drive through to order food. Although I could not see what people were ordering I took note of the make of car and how many passengers were in each. One thing that came from this tiny half hour study was that over half the vehicles were premium brands: Audis, Beamers, Infinitis and Acuras stopping to munch on McDonalds! What does this say about the buyers of luxury brands? They like to eat on the quick and cheap like everybody else. Another interesting observation was that 15 of the 20 vehicles contained only the driver, no passengers – while the other five cars had only a single passenger each. I have tabulated my observations below to show how even a small set of observations can provide useful insights into human behaviour and provide a starting point for questions and for more methodical research.

Car   Model Number of people in car
Acura 1
Acura 2
Audi 1
Austin Mini 1
Austin Mini 2
BMW 1
BMW 2
Chevrolet Cavalier 1
Chrysler Van 2
Dodge Caravan 1
Ford F150 xIR 4×4 1
Ford Fusion 1
Honda Civic 2
Infiniti 1
Jeep Grand Cherokee 1
Nissan 1
Pontiac Wave 1
Saturn 1
Toyota Camry 1
Toyota Camry 1
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