Chick-fil-A is Building a Four-Lane Drive-Thru for 75 Cars
In some of Chick-fil-A’s markets, digital orders comprise more than half of sales, Khalilah Cooper, the brand’s executive director of restaurant design, said. And it’s only growing. “So we know,” she said in a statement, “our customers have an appetite for convenience.”
In recent years, Chick-fil-A addressed this tide through mobile ordering via its app and dedicated “Mobile Thru” lanes where customers who order ahead can roll through their own queue. But now, the movement is taking on more physical changes as Chick-fil-A prepares to launch two fresh restaurant concepts in 2024. The first is an elevated drive-thru set for the brand’s homebase of Atlanta. The unit will provide multiple options: order ahead in the Chick-fil-A app and pickup using those dedicated Mobile Thru lanes; and the ability for customers to place orders with employees in traditional drive-thru lanes.
The elevated store boasts twice as much kitchen capacity and a sophisticated “food transport system,” the company said. There are four lanes that hold up to 75 cars and can “level up the experience for all guests, no matter which ordering they choose.”
“Understanding this desire for convenience, the locations for these tests were intentionally selected with the customers in mind, giving them more control over their desired experience and cutting down wait-time, while continuing to provide genuine hospitality and care to every guest,” Cooper said.
By building the kitchen above the drive-thru lanes, the brand added, meals are expedited to employees who then deliver the order directly to the guest in a space protected by the upper level. Hospitality won’t be sacrificed for speed of service, Chick-fil-A said. The design across is intended to keep human interaction at the company’s core experience.
The walk-up concept is tailored for urban areas with heavy foot traffic. Guests order ahead via the app and, when they arrive, it’s handed over with a smile, Chick-fil-A said.
“We want to leverage technology to elevate the human touchpoints in our restaurants,” Cooper added. “These new digital formats make the customer and Team Member experience more seamless, and therefore more memorable, and give back precious time to connect with each other.”
On Thursday, Chick-fil-A also opened a drive-thru store with no seating in Hawaii. That location has three walk-up windows in addition to two lanes that wrap around the building.
Chick-fil-A generated $18.814 billion in U.S. sales across 2022, as total revenue and income climbed from $4.32 billion to $6.37 billion. Notably, average-unit volumes at freestanding drive-thrus ended 2022 at $8.676 million, up from $8.142 million and $7.096 million in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
Chick-fil-A’s quickly diversifying lineup has plenty of growth whitespace to chase as well. There were nine brands in this year’s QSR 50 (being released in August) at $10 billion or above in U.S. total sales. After Chick-fil-A, the next smallest, footprint-wise, was Wendy’s, at 5,994 U.S. stores. Chick-fil-A had 2,837. Even closed on Sundays, the brand trails only McDonald’s and Starbucks in systemwide results despite the fact there are 13,036 more Starbucks and 10,607 more McDonald’s in America.
DANNY KLEIN | QSRmagazine.com