A brief history of the drive-through in Canada

Late bloomers, but enthusiastic

(Photodisc/Getty Images)

(Photodisc/Getty Images)

Canadians made 1.3 billion visits to drive-through restaurants in the year ending February 2014, according to the NPD Group. That’s a lot of coffee and burgers passing through service windows to customers in cars.

But the quick pickup way of life is increasingly under threat: Tim Hortons has faced flak because of the emissions created by idling cars and several Montreal boroughs are considering banning the building of new drive-thru outlets.

How you refer to these car-serving conveniences depends on which keeper of Canadian national identity you trust more: the Canadian Oxford Dictionary says the correct spelling is “drive-through”; Tim Hortons—which operates such windows at 2,604 locations across Canada—insists the proper usage is “drive-thru.” In order not to get too bogged down in lexical pedantry I’ve deferred to each individual restaurant’s usage in the timeline below.

With National Drive-Thru Day on July 24, here’s a look at the history of the drive-thru in Canada.