If you’ve ever spent time along the I-95 corridor for a long road trip, chances are you’ve been met by this all-too-familiar scenario:
You’ve got hours left in the car, you’re starving, and the protein bar you packed simply isn’t going to cut it.
You could pull off at one of the dozens of McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Wendy’s restaurants. But it’s too late in the day for coffee or a muffin, and a burger might suddenly initiate a bout of narcolepsy at the wheel.
Then you see it, the big red sign — a flashing beacon of hope in the distance. There’s a Chick-fil-A 2 1/2 miles down the road. And it’s not Sunday.
Buoyed by the thought of nuggets, waffle fries, and the famous Chick-fil-A sauce, you gleefully take the exit and follow the signs to your little roadside oasis.
And then, again, you see it — the seemingly miles-long drive-through line. Everyone else seems to have had the same idea.
Your road trip just got about 45 minutes longer thanks to this little detour.
Chick-fil-A’s biggest problem recently has been too much success. More specifically, its lengthy drive-throughs make for congested experiences and more time spent waiting for food — nightmare fuel for anyone in the fast-food industry. It’s supposed to be fast, after all.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – MAY 06: A worker takes orders as customers line up in the drive-thru lane at a Chick-fil-A restaurant on May 06, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicken prices have risen sharply this year as suppliers struggle to keep up with demand, fueled in part, by the popularity of new chicken offerings from fast-food restaurants. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Chick-fil-A has tried to resolve the issue with a lot of minifixes. It’s opened multiple parallel lanes, stuck employees outside to take roadside orders ahead of the kiosk, and installed fans and overhangs to keep drivers more comfortable while they wait.
But these are proving to be mainly temporary solutions. Wait times remain a major pain point for customers, who overwhelmingly still prefer the drive-through.
Chick-fil-A Tries to Solve a Major Issue
So the Atlanta chain went back to the drawing board, testing two new concepts designed to cut down on wait time and delight the customer once again. Beginning in 2024, Chick-fil -A will open two new restaurant concepts, one in Atlanta and one in New York.
The Atlanta concept will feature a shiny new drive-through design with four new lanes. Half those lanes will be dedicated to mobile orders, encouraging customers to save time and place orders ahead of time on the app.
Above the lanes will be prep kitchens double the size of most Chick-fil-A locations, where it will then deliver orders via a conveyor-style belt and chute. The new concept is tested to handle 75 cars at once.
The New York concept will serve as a walk-up experiment, where customers are greeted with a “warm hello, then grab and go,” design.
The kitchen will prepare mobile orders ahead of time using GPS data in order to predict when a customer might walk in and how to keep his or her food fresh longer.
An official open date in 2024 is yet to be set, and no numbers have been released yet. But it’s probably safe to say the Atlanta concept is the pricier of the two test sites.
A recent poll shows 47% of Americans would actually skip going to a restaurant that didn’t have a drive-through option. And with Chick-fil-A’s wait times among the longest in the industry, investing in the place a customer already prefers is good business.
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