Chick-fil-A is doubling down on mobile order drive-thru lanes, following a growing trend across the quick-service industry.
The fast-food giant noted that after a two-year test, “Mobile Thru” is launching at more than 300 restaurants across the U.S. this year. The digital lanes will be featured in even more units in 2024. The service will be added in stores where “it will optimize the experience for customers and make processes more efficient,” the company said. Eighty-five percent of guests who used the mobile order drive-thru lane during tests said they were likely to use it again and 90 percent said the pilot went smoothly.
“Our hope with Mobile Thru is to help guests experience the drive-thru quicker than ever before. By dedicating one of our lanes exclusively for mobile order pickup, we are creating an easier and more efficient experience for our guests on the go,” Julie Ledford, the principal program lead on Chick-fil-A’s service and hospitality team, said in a statement.
The chain revealed the test in late June 2022 and said that it was live at about 60 restaurants. At the time, Chick-fil-A referred to it as “Drive-thru Express.”
The process is simple. Guests choose a location in the app, select the Mobile Thru option as a pickup destination, and then place an order. When they arrive, customers follow signs toward the mobile order lane and use an app to scan a QR code to check in their order. They then pull around to pick up the meal from an employee. Chick-fil-A still emphasizes its traditional drive-thru option and indoor seating, but it also stated test results show Mobile Thru lanes help guests receive orders faster and don’t take away from customers in the regular lane.
“We understand that Chick-fil-A guests can experience wait times while ordering at a busy restaurant, which is why we created a new convenient drive-thru option,” Ledford said. “With Mobile Thru, guests will have the opportunity to order and pay ahead through the Chick-fil-A App, making meal pickup a seamless experience. Quality and efficient service are always a priority for us, and we are confident Mobile Thru will help guests better utilize the drive-thru.”
The news comes about a month after Chick-fil-A revealed its most ambitious prototype yet—a four-lane drive-thru restaurant that can hold up to 75 cars, with Mobile Thru options available.
Digitally focused drive-thru lanes have accelerated in the past few years. Chipotle, which refers to its mobile order lane as a “Chipotlane,” now has more than 600 across North America. Taco Bell’s two-story Defy Concept in Minnesota dedicates three of its four drive-thru lanes to mobile ordering and third-party delivery orders.
Chick-fil-A generated $18.814 billion in U.S. sales across 2022, only training McDonald’s ($48.7 billion) and Starbucks ($28.1 billion). 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.