When Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out hamburger stand close to Route 66 in 1948, he helped to consummate the love affair between two of America’s favourite things — the car and fast food.

A year earlier, Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri, had become the first restaurant to feature a drive-up window where customers could order without leaving their vehicles.

But Snyder took the concept further, promising food with “no delay” at his restaurant in Baldwin Park, California, thanks to an innovative two-way speaker that he built in his garage.

It was the right vision for the right moment: soon, in the postwar glow of 1950s America, leather jacket-clad teenagers would be rolling up to food stands in gleaming Cadillacs, placing orders over the crackle of transistor radios playing a new genre of music called rock’n’roll.

Then in the 1970s Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Burger King brought drive-thru culture to the American masses, leading eventually to a backlash in the early part of this century.

Today, 75 years after Snyder had his visionary idea, the popularity of the drive-thru has surged to record levels, fuelled by younger consumers’ habits, new technology and a preference for less human interaction following the pandemic.

Fast-food chains including McDonald’s and Taco Bell are building ever larger drive-thrus to accommodate the growing demand. The biggest, a Chick-fil-A due to open next year in Atlanta, Georgia, will be able to handle 75 cars at a time across four lanes.

The Sunday Times. To read the full story click here