We adopted a multiple case study methodology to identify and characterize: (i) adopter municipalities across Canada, and (ii) the nature of the adopted fast food drive-through service bylaws. Case studies are a method used to investigate real world phenomenon by asking ‘how’ and ‘why’ . A multiple case study design “refers to case study research in which several instrumental bounded cases are selected to develop a more in-depth understanding of the phenomena than a single case can provide” (p.582) . A multiple case study methodology was therefore an appropriate study design to engender an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon of fast food drive-through service bans within a real-life context of multiple municipalities.
In this study, a ‘case’, referred to hereafter as ‘adopter’, was defined as a Canadian municipality that had adopted a ban on fast food drive-through services within a municipal zoning bylaw. The bylaw had to be enacted and publicly available at the time of this study (up to February 2016). Adoption was determined based on evidence of a formal bylaw, policy, official community plan, council resolution, or amendment document outlining a partial or full ban on new construction or building restrictions specific to fast food drive-through services in the municipality.
Diffusion of innovations theory  provided an organizing conceptual framework for bylaw analysis and characterization of adopters. This theory proposes: key characteristics of adopters (i.e., their level of innovativeness based on five types and as reflected by their position in a diffusion curve); attributes of the innovation; and key contextual factors, such as communication channels and social networks, which are strong determinants of successful adoption. It outlines five types of innovation adopters: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards . In a general sense, innovators are the first to try a new idea and adopt an innovation (e.g., a fast food drive-through ban); as such, they are known to be venturesome. Early adopters are described as respectable, in that later adopters often seek the opinion of the early adopter before adopting an innovation. Next are the early majority, who are viewed as deliberate. This group interacts with peers to learn about an innovation, but rarely lead adoption of an innovation. Late majority are skeptical of new ideas and often wait for their peers to pressure them into adoption. Finally, the traditional nature of laggards results in this group being the last to adopt an innovation, and some in this group may only adopt the innovation once required to do so.
According to the theory , when adopters are plotted by adoption date on a graph of time against percentage of adopters, the resultant curve forms an S-shape. The position of an adopter on the curve defines their adopter-type based on the normal adoption distribution: innovator (2.5% of all adopters); early adopters (13.5%); early majority (34%); late majority (34%); and laggards (16%). In some cases, it may not be possible to plot policy adoption date on an S-shaped curve due to a small sample size . Instead, researchers may consider both the date of adoption and characteristics of adopter innovativeness (as evidenced by government reports and examples of similar innovative initiatives) when assigning one of the five adopter-types.
Identification of municipalities
Two reviewers carried out a systematic search for municipal bylaws, restrictions, and/or policies on fast food drive-through services across Canada. The search involved looking for relevant grey literature using the Google search engine, Restaurants Canada website, various Canadian municipal government websites, University of Alberta Library Canadian Newsstand Complete, and Quick Law (for municipal board orders and decisions) to identify possible municipal bylaws within each province and territory across Canada. An array of documents, such as municipal council meeting minutes and newspaper articles, were also identified by hand searching reference lists of identified sources. Where the aforementioned documents identified other municipal jurisdictions as referents, snowball sampling was employed to identify relevant documents from those newly identified municipalities. The initial search yielded documents from a total of 130 municipalities across 11 provinces and territories. The search was conducted in June 2015, and performed again in February 2016 for updates.
Identification of adopters
Adopters were identified by reviewing the source documents (i.e., copies of policies and bylaws, municipal council meeting minutes, and official community plans) to determine if: i) a fast food drive-through service ban had been considered and discussed by municipal council; and, if yes, ii) a bylaw, restriction, and/or policy or amendment was adopted. A municipality was characterized as an ‘adopter’ and included in the study if it met both criteria.
To identify adopters, coders followed four key steps. First, coders examined a municipality’s zoning bylaw to identify: the definition of a drive-through; general provisions of the zoning bylaw; and if these zoning bylaws were adopted and/or amended. Second, in cases where there was no indication of a ban within the zoning bylaw, coders then identified drive-through related policies within a municipality’s official community plan. If a ban could not be identified in the first two steps, step three was employed. Step three required coders to refer to news articles that initially identified a municipality as a potential adopter. News articles provided a source of key dates surrounding council discussion on the topic. This, in turn, informed a search within public council meeting minutes. Minutes were read to follow the decision-making process until a ban was adopted or rejected, allowing for confirmation. Finally, in cases where coders were still uncertain of adoption, municipal zoning bylaw officers and planners were contacted for clarification.
Characterization of adopters
As described above, diffusion of innovations theory  categorizes adopters into one of five adopter-types based on the relative time at which they adopt a new idea in a network or community of adopters. According to the theory, when adopters are plotted by adoption date on a graph of time against percentage of adopters, the resultant curve forms an S-shape. The position of an adopter on the curve defines their adopter-type based on the normal adoption distribution: innovator (2.5% of all adopters); early adopters (13.5%); early majority (34%); late majority (34%); and laggards (16%).
Due to the limited number of municipalities identified as adopters in this study (likely due to the relative recent emergence of this policy option), an adoption curve could not be empirically fitted on an S-shaped curve. Therefore, each identified adopter municipality was plotted chronologically on a timeline and on a scatter plot using IBM SPSS Statistics 23 to examine policy spread. The timeline and scatter plot was then examined for trends and natural clustering of dates. Clusters of dates were grouped into adopter-types, with the innovator group having the earliest dates of adoption, followed by early adopters, early majority, and so on.
To confirm the adopter-type assignment of each municipality, two coders independently categorized each municipality using the diffusion of innovations theory definitions and key characteristics for each of the five adopter-types. Data used for this confirmation included municipal council reports outlining initial dates of policy discussion and development, newspaper articles highlighting public concerns with drive-through services, and personal communication with municipal planners and city clerks to clarify information and dates in public documents. Following the independent adopter-type assignment, the two coders and a third researcher discussed the findings. There was 100% agreement on adopter-type assignments.
Characterization of nature of bylaw
To analyze the nature of the adopter’s bylaw, four characteristics were considered: geographic location of adopters; extent of ban (full or partial); bylaw intention or justification; and adopter policy learning activities (e.g., public consultation and research).
First, the geographic location of each adopter municipality was plotted on a map of Canada to identify possible geographical patterns. Adopters were plotted by province/territory and by region. For the purposes of this analysis, three regions were considered: eastern Canada region (comprising the following provinces: Newfoundland & Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec, and Ontario); western Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia); or northern Canada (Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon).
Second, each adopter’s bylaw was reviewed to categorize the extent of the bylaw as either a ‘full’ or ‘partial’ ban of fast food drive-through services across municipal zones. A bylaw was considered a ‘full’ ban if the zoning bylaw banned the future construction of fast food drive-through services across all municipal zones. In some cases, this involved ‘grandfathering’ in existing facilities, rather than requiring the closure of operating drive-through services. A ‘partial’ ban described zoning bylaws that banned fast food drive-through services in one or more (but less than all) zones within the municipality. For example, the bylaw may ban drive-through services in residential and downtown zones, but allow them in highway commercial zones.
Third, the intent of each adopter’s bylaw was identified and assessed for alignment with bylaw intentions identified in the literature. Bylaw intentions identified in the literature included, in order of prevalence, related to: obesity and chronic disease [4, 5, 8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16]; protection of community aesthetics and character [4, 5, 10,11,12, 17,18,19]; traffic concerns [17,18,19,20,21,22]; safety [5, 10, 19, 20, 22]; reducing physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour [5, 8, 14, 28]; protecting local economy [4, 5, 23]; improving community nutrition [5, 9, 13]; air pollution, idling, and environmental concerns [5, 18]; decreasing inequalities by decreasing the density of fast food drive-through in low-income neighbourhoods [5, 29]; noise concerns from intercoms [19, 30]; and, improving community walkability .
Last, we identified policy learning activities where possible. These were grouped according to the typical policy learning activities of either public consultation or research activities. To be considered in the study, policy learning activities must have been conducted prior to policy adoption. Actions taken after policy adoption, though important, would not have influenced policy adoption and thus were beyond the scope of this study. Policy learning through public consultation included evidence of municipalities hosting public hearings to assess general interest and opposition to a potential drive-through zoning bylaw. Evidence of these hearings was found within municipal council meeting minutes and reports. Research activities included the municipality undertaking: i) a local inventory scan of fast food drive-through services and reviewing current zoning definitions and regulations; and/or ii) external research to understand zoning definitions and regulations of other municipalities across Canada.