In 2021, Chick-fil-A’s freestanding restaurants, open and operated at least a full calendar year, averaged $8.142 million per store. While a towering figure, it’s not one that would catch many off-guard. If there was one evident reality during the COVID-19 window, it’s that Chick-fil-A packed its drive-thrus across the U.S. Of that pool, which counts 1,836 stores (outside malls), 46 percent produced figures at or above the $8.142 million baseline. One generated $17.17 million.
There have also been stories of late regarding Chick-fil-A’s traffic prompting zoning violation notices and other jams. In Pennsylvania’s Newtown Township, the board of supervisors approved a settlement that granted the construction of a 400-square-foot addition to a Chick-fil-A kitchen and a right turn lane along the main road to address “significant stacking issues.” It also green-lighted a bypass lane to allow customers who received their orders to drive past the pickup window and exit the lot.
On Wednesday, the company unveiled its latest drive-thru technology that could address some of these bottle-ups. Chick-fil-A is piloting an express drive-thru lane solely dedicated to customers who ordered ahead using the brand’s app.
It’s currently live at about 60 stores, with the potential to roll out to more in 2023, pending further testing, the company said.
Chick-fil-A believes the option will cut down on-site wait times (since guests who use it are just there to collect); give users a new quick and convenient option if they don’t want to wait, yet with the same drive-thru experience where they don’t have to get out of their cars; and also enable employees to serve customers more efficiently, “but still with great care.”
Jonathan Lassiter, a senior integration leader on Chick-fil-A’s Service and Hospitality team, called the express drive-thru lane “a game-changer for our busy customers and our team members.”
Logistically, the express lane is a partially or fully dedicated lane in the drive-thru. Customers who order ahead will be able to bypass the other line and go right to pickup.
Customers choose a location on the app and, if available, select “Drive-Thru Express” as the destination and then place an order. When they arrive, signage will point them to the express lane, where they use the app to scan a QR code in the dedicated lane before pulling around to receive their order from a Chick-fil-A employee.
“We see this as a way to serve customers more effectively and give them more control over their experience,” Lassiter said in a statement. “The lengthiest part of our drive-thru ordering process is the brief wait to get your order taken. The express lane cuts down ordering and payment time significantly, granting customers access to greater speed, ease and convenience when they want it most.”
Chick-fil-A said the option is “part of a more personalized experience where guests choose their own adventure.” In other words, it’s not replacing the ability to order at the drive-thru line or inside the restaurant. Or to pickup in-store.
“We recognize that Chick-fil-A restaurants are busy because customers value the experience and hospitable service we offer,” Lassiter added. “Speed, quality, accuracy and friendly service are a focus for us. By giving guests the opportunity to order and pay ahead through the Chick-fil-A App, checking in at the dedicated lane becomes a seamless experience, making the express drive-thru lane a convenient new option.”
In tests, the company said the express lane decreased wait times “significantly” since consumers have already ordered and paid. And “most guests” are choosing to use the express drive-thru again on their visit.