It’s no secret that the Ithaca McDonald’s is busy. I can comfortably say that I have consistently waited for over 20 minutes in the drive-through line most times I’ve gone (excluding the midnight snack runs). In fact, the Ithaca McDonald’s drive-through is regarded by locals as one of the busiest drive-throughs in the state. As a frequent patron of the Ithaca McDonald’s drive-through myself, I needed to find out a bit more about what makes our McDonald’s drive-through different.
Before proceeding further, it is important to note that Ithaca has two McDonald’s locations. There is a location on Triphammer Road, right next to the (decrepit) Ithaca Mall, which is the McDonald’s closest to Cornell — about seven minutes away — and also the location I will be referring to throughout this piece. While this McDonald’s is technically within the Village of Lansing, it is closer to Cornell than the location on Elmira Road next to Home Depot, which is about 12 minutes from campus.
The Triphammer Road McDonald’s is a stone’s throw from Route 13, a major commuting route out of Ithaca to Dryden, Cortland and surrounding rural areas. It is also along the way to Lansing, a major suburban area surrounding Ithaca. Although the Elmira Road McDonald’s is also on Route 13 out of Ithaca, it is surrounded by half a dozen competitors, ranging from KFC to Wendy’s. The Triphammer Road McDonald’s, on the other hand, is the only source of fast food for miles, facing no competition (excluding the sad Subway located in a strip mall nearby).
One review from Yelp, written this past July, reads, “Can someone tell me why I am always waiting 20+ minutes at drive thru. This is an ongoing problem with this McDonald’s.”
Along with this unhappy customer, there are dozens of other reviews complaining about similar wait times in the drive-through.
This past weekend on the way to a hike around 9 a.m., I passed by the McDonald’s and glanced over to see a line of cars wrapped around the building, all hoping to grab a tasty breakfast. I was reminded of the lore regarding this McDonald’s popularity, so I went inside to check it out.
Shockingly, when I walked inside, I was greeted by a mostly empty store. There was a couple sharing a meal in the back, but no line to order. I admired the line of around 15 cars outside in the drive through, and was especially curious about why so many people opt for the drive-through instead of the faster option of going inside.
A quick Google search informed me that during the peak of covid, McDonald’s closed their interior to customers, and instead encouraged people to use the drive through. It is likely that many people became accustomed to this habit and still, well after the peak of COVID, use the drive through for safety and convenience.
Shaylyn Nair ‘25 worked at the McDonald’s on Triphammer Road during the summer of 2020, during the peak of the pandemic. Nair said that at the beginning of the summer, they implemented a policy where customers could come to the counter to order, but could not dine in. Nair suggested that this contributed to the routine of using the drive-through which people began to develop.
Nair said, “People mainly used the drive through and it was normally busy, but especially during the dinner rush when we scrambled to meet the demand.”
I also wondered how long the average person waited when going to the Triphammer Road McDonald’s. Nair replied, “I would say that the average person waited around 12 minutes to get their food, but often people waited much longer.”
For potentially the busiest McDonald’s location in New York State, twelve minutes doesn’t seem too shabby.
“People were aware of the fact that the location was one of the busiest. There was a sign that was up in the kitchen mentioning it but people didn’t talk about it too much,” she said.
Soon after I received the sausage and egg meal I ordered, I ravenously devoured it, realizing the mediocre patty probably wasn’t worth even the $3.99 price tag. However, it felt remarkable standing within perhaps the busiest McDonald’s in New York. This McDonald’s stands as the closest fast food option to Cornellians with a drive-through open until midnight weekdays and 24/7 on weekends. I urge all of you to check it out — though perhaps not during peak hours if you want your food before it’s cold.
Jimmy Cawley is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].
Correction: The article originally stated that the Triphammer Road McDonald’s was located within Ithaca. It is actually located in the Village of Lansing.