There's a bit of craze going on at the moment.

After weeks of lockdown, when McDonald's returned this week - at least for drive thrus - and it felt like a return to normality.

You've seen the pictures - scarcely believable queues not only in Watford but around the UK.

Of course, not everyone has been overjoyed, particularly those living near a drive-thru.

And there have been real concerns about safety, particularly in Garston, as drivers queue on a busy dual carriageway.

Watford Observer:

Queues at McDonald's Garston earlier this week. Credit: The Drone Photo Company

I like McDonald's as much as the next person but would I queue in my own time for up to an hour for a Big Mac or McFlurry? Probably not.

But because queuing is a bit of a national pastime right now, we thought we'd test a local drive thru and find out whether it's worth the wait.

So if you're one of those people who secretly wants a McDonald's but won't admit it and wants to know what the drive-thru experience is like, we've got the answer.

Third time's a charm

Just before midday today, with an order in my pocket from my family, me and my sister headed to McDonald's on the A41 in Bushey.

I'd written about the queues in Garston (and seen our readers' reactions to those queueing).

But I hadn't written much about the Bushey drive-thru, although we had seen videos of the traffic, and I was expecting the worst.

As I approached McDonald's, I was surprised that the queue on the A41 itself was quite short.

But what I also noticed was that two vehicles were turning around in the middle of the road, holding up the traffic coming the other way.

Watford Observer:

It looked quite dangerous and it was obvious they were heading to McDonald's.

The queue on the A41 was literally five or six cars but the drive thru car park was absolutely packed.

It was good to see there was security wearing face masks managing the entrance but I was soon to be disappointed because I was turned away because the car park was full.

The security guard told me they were trying to get the queue down, and that they had already had to close for a few minutes because of how busy it had been.

Watford Observer:

This Mini in front wanted to get in but security wouldn't allow them to wait

Watford Observer:

Had I just been trying my luck, I probably would have left (honest!), but I'd been given a mission and I had to complete it.

So I did a safe circuit of the area and rejoined the queue - but my luck wasn't in and we were turned away for a second time, even though the queue had reduced.

Watford Observer:

It wasn't to be a second time even though the queue had reduced

Watford Observer:

Third time lucky? Thankfully yes. The queue had cleared a bit and we were allowed in.

I chuckled as I saw the same Mini in front of me that had been turned away before. Some people really want a McDonald's.

In total, it had taken 15 minutes to get onto McDonald's land.

Just like normal

A second security man was in charge of making sure vehicles were as tightly packed as possible. I felt like I was on the Channel Tunnel when they direct you into a space on the train as close as possible to the vehicle in front.

Now it was just a waiting game.

Watford Observer:

McDonald's has signs up reminding drivers that service will be slower

I'd spoken to a woman who lives in Garston and she said it was taking 30 minutes to get around the forecourt at McDonald's so I was expecting a long wait.

But it was completely the opposite.

Despite the high demand, the order was taken quickly, I paid for my order with contactless, and before I knew it, I was at the final window waiting for my food.

Watford Observer:

Sadly, milkshakes aren't on the menu right now so McDonald's did get a minus point there.

I'd given quite a big order but it was done in two minutes.

I left, genuinely surprised at how quick it was.

One of the reasons why we headed to McDonald's was to see what, if anything, was different.

I'd seen an article from an Essex-based journalist about his trip to KFC and he described how someone came to your car window to collect your order, while you then had to park up to receive your food.

The staff who were friendly and just getting on with the job.

They had all been given face masks and they all wore see-through plastic gloves, as well as the usual caps - but the drive thru process was the same as it always has been.

Each window also had a large perspex screen with enough room to pay or pass the food through.

So there you have it. A McDonald's drive thru really does seem to be stress-free - that's if you can get in. Time it right, and you could be in and out in 25 minutes!

Watford Observer:

Watford Observer:

The entrance to McDonald's was still closed when we left even though there wasn't much of a queue on the forecourt

But as I found out when I headed back to Watford, not everyone will be so lucky.

Each branch is different

I headed to St Albans Road, the home of two McDonald's branches, to see what it was like, but with my food getting cold, I didn't want to hang around.

I was so glad I hadn't attempted the North Watford branch as the queue looked painful - but once again security were out there and despite the odd horn or two, it was mostly civilised - except it seemed to have kicked off between staff and some customers at the front of the queue.

A final stop in Garston next to see whether the safety concerns had been addressed on the A405.

Watford Observer:

This was St Albans Road in North Watford at lunchtime today because of queues in Longspring

Watford Observer:

The St Albans Road entrance in Garston has been closed

The answer, reassuringly, was yes. There has been plenty of concern from both the police and councillors about how safe queuing is at the Garston McDonald's.

It was busy, unsurprisingly, but only at the drive thru itself because McDonald's was blocking any access onto its site if the queue spilled out onto the dual carriageway.

It began hailing but the security guard stuck to his guns and was signalling to drivers that they couldn't come in.

Watford Observer:

These measures weren't in place earlier this week but now if the drive thru is full, drivers are turned away

This was further proof that you're not guaranteed to get a McDonald's and if you are desperate for one, you'll have to keep trying and trying again, wherever you go.

Overall thoughts

Was going worth it?

In terms of queuing, for me, yes, because it took nowhere near as long as I would have expected.


It was a little cold when I got home but McDonald's is McDonald's. I wouldn't have waited an hour for it, that's for sure, even if it had have been warm.

Should you visit?

On balance, I'd say you should chance it but in Watford, if it's looking really busy, I'd probably leave it because it's probably not worth the wait. Many more will be open soon, and I'm not sure this much demand is fair on local residents or employees.