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Amazed by the number of drive-thrus? Then prepare yourself for another shock: In the United States, 22 percent of all restaurant meals are ordered through a car window.

This is just one of many interesting driving-related factoids turned up by Tom Vanderbilt in his book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (Knopf, 2008).

Here are a few more from the chapter devoted to food:

• The expanding cup holder only became standard car equipment in the 1980s. It is now considered a “vital enabler of dashboard dining, a ‘food and beverage venue’ hosting such products as Campbell’s Soup at Hand and Yoplait’s Go-Gurt.”

• In 2001, there were 134 food products that featured the word “go” on the label or in ads; by 2004, there were 504.

• In 2003, there were 73.2 billion mobile snacks and meals — termed “on-the-go eating occasions” by the food industry — on the market in the United States and Europe. Today there are upward of 84 billion.

• McDonald’s has added a second drive-thru lane to hundreds of its U.S. restaurants to speed traffic.

• Some fast-food restaurants hire marketers to test which foods are easiest to eat in actual traffic. One evaluation of on-the-go gobbling ease: the number of napkins used during the test drive.


Originally appeared as “Wheel Food” in the May 2011 issue of Experience Life.

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