Because of the fact that the Drive-Thru Study’s speed of service is measured from the time a customer places an order to the time they receive it, Chick-fil-A’s speed of service inevitably skews long compared with the other brands. (One other way to read Chick-fil-A’s drive-thru speed is through its total time, which measures the drive-thru experience from the time a car pulls into the drive-thru lane to the time it receives food. Chick-fil-A registered a 487-second total time, compared with the industry average of 327 seconds.)
Regardless of the time, Cooper says, what’s important is that Chick-fil-A gets guests in and out as quickly as they can while also creating a top-notch experience.
“We want to create the type of experience that guests trust time and time again,” she says. “If they come to our restaurant, even if they see cars in the line, they know we’ll get them out as quickly as possible, but they’ll also get fresh food and a hospitable experience.”
Chick-fil-A is an outlier in the quick-service industry in so many ways (including with its eye-popping $4 million AUV). With the exception of McDonald’s, no other brand has to get as creative with drive-thru throughput, which has led Chick-fil-A to roll out dual lanes along with the face-to-face ordering crew, who are armed with tablets, mobile card readers, and Bluetooth cash drawers. It’s also installed canopies in the drive thru and employed specially designed crew uniforms to account for inclement weather.
Even its real estate decisions have to be filtered through the fact that its busy drive thrus disrupt the flow of track in and around the lot.
“Having what we call an isolated drive thru is really helpful,” Cooper says. “So instead of having the building in the center of the pad and then the drive thru wrap all the way around the building in a circle, we have the building more off-center on the pad and isolate the drive thru so you only have cars flowing in one direction. Then you don’t have cars in the drive thru also trying to navigate cars that are parked or trying to get out of a parking space.”