A Look at LA’s Crazy Long Fast-Food Drive-Thru Lines

Even as California remains largely locked down in the face of the coronavirus crisis, many stir-crazy Angelenos have been fortunate enough to escape the house in their cars — and apparently head directly to a drive-thru, where lines at fast-food restaurants have reached ridiculous proportions. Last week, with the help of an aerial drone, Eater LA surveyed multiple spots around LA County where queues could reach up to fifty cars long, stretching for a quarter mile or more.

One particular cluster of restaurants in Downey — In-N-Out, Chick-Fil-A, and Raising Cane’s — made for what could be the largest collection of cars waiting for fast food in Southern California, with one stretch along Firestone Boulevard bringing together nearly 140 cars waiting in line for food.

In-N-Out Burger, Hollywood

Hollywood’s lone In-n-Out is already known to field long lines, especially during prime meal hours, but ever since the Southern California-based burger chain closed its dining rooms, the drive-thru has been the only way to load up on double-doubles and animal-style fries. The building doesn’t accommodate more than one drive-thru lane, so the line snakes out into the neighborhood along Orange Drive. Employees walk the line, taking early orders are relayed inside via headset to speed up the process.

In-N-Out drive thru in Hollywood, California

Workers not only take orders, they handle line flow
Wonho Frank Lee

In-N-Out drive thru in Hollywood, California

Even during normal operations, lines here stretch into the residential neighborhood
Wonho Frank Lee

Raising Cane’s, Downey

Drive-thru line for Raising Cane’s stretches more than 50 cars, almost a quarter mile from the restaurant into the mall parking lot in Downey, California

The line for Raising Cane’s stretched for nearly a quarter mile, from the restaurant and into the mall parking lot
Stan Lee

Raising Cane’s is a Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based fast-food restaurant founded in 1996 with a very simple menu: fried chicken tenders, crinkle-cut fries, coleslaw, Texas toast, and a spicy mayo sauce. The chain has over 500 locations in the U.S. and is just entering the Southern California area with a few dozen restaurants, mostly in southeast LA county, Orange County, and Inland Empire.

Drive-thru line at Raising Cane’s, Downey, California

Waits at Raising Cane’s stretched over an hour, sometimes diverting traffic patterns
Wonho Frank Lee

Two people play Nintendo Switch while waiting in drive-thru line at Raising Cane’s

Two people play Nintendo Switch while waiting in drive-thru line at Raising Cane’s
Wonho Frank Lee

In-N-Out, Downey

The In-N-Out in Downey has a very small footprint and is surrounded by residential buildings, but the line stretched in two different directions on a recent Friday evening. There are nearly 40 cars, with traffic almost piling up on the busy intersection of Firestone and Lakewood Boulevards.

Overhead drone photo of the drive-thru line at In-N-Out in Downey, California

Overhead drone photo of the drive-thru line at In-N-Out
Stan Lee

Drive-thru lines at In-N-Out Downey

The flow of cars at the In-N-Out drive-thru
Stan Lee

Chick-Fil-A, Downey

Chick-Fil-A, which has two locations in Downey, piled 50 cars in two lanes at its Firestone Boulevard location, just two blocks northwest of the In-N-Out.

Chick-fil-A in Downey

Chick-fil-A’s Downey drive-thru utilizes two lanes to keep cars off of the street
Stan Lee

Krispy Kreme, Gardena

The Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Gardena, just off the intersection of the 91 and 110 freeways, has a snaking line that had 37 cars on Friday evening, though it can get even longer on some Mondays, when the donut chain gives away up to five dozen donuts to healthcare workers.

Krispy Kreme, Gardena, California

LA is America’s doughnut capital, as evidenced by this always-busy Krispy Kreme
Wonho Frank Lee

Krispy Kreme doughnuts first opened in Southern California during the 2000s, with busy locations in Crenshaw District and Burbank. This location in Gardena received some fame on Reddit a few weeks ago for its long drive-thru line. It certainly helps that starting at 6 p.m., the shop makes warm fritters hot off the fryer.

Drive-thru line at Krispy Kreme in Gardena, California

Despite multiple parking lot switchbacks, this Gardena Krispy Kreme’s line takes up a full lane of traffic

In-N-Out, Gardena

In-N-Out in Gardena had an efficient two-lane system that could increase capacity depending on the number of cars lined up. A normal wait for someone joining the drive-thru hovers around fifteen minutes for their order, with about two-dozen cars in front of them.

In-N-Out drive thru in Gardena, California

Even with two lanes, this Gardena In-N-Out’s drive thru can take 20 or 30 minutes
Wonho Frank Lee

In-N-Out drive thru in Gardena, California

Long, snaking In-n-Out lines have always been a common Southern California occurrence
Wonho Frank Lee

Drive-thru culture has long been a tradition in Southern California, owing to the area’s commuter culture, freeway access, and insatiable appetite for burgers, doughnuts, and tacos — all easily eaten on the road. Now during the coronavirus pandemic, cars act as natural cocoons, creating physical distance between people while still allowing a modicum of outside-the-home interaction. Pandemic or not, dining in cars is a California tradition — and as these hour-long lines show, one not likely to go away any time soon.

Stan Lee is an LA-based photographer and occasional drone pilot.
Wonho Frank Lee is Eater LA’s staff photographer

Drive-thru line at Raising Cane’s, Downey, California

Wonho Frank Lee

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