Chick-fil-A plans to test two digital-first store designs — an elevated drive-thru and walk-up concept — in another effort to tackle pickup’s biggest pain point: long wait times.
In a press release, Khalilah Cooper, executive director of restaurant design for Chick-fil-A, said digital orders make up more than half of total sales in some markets and continue to expand. She said, “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.”
Both locations are scheduled to open in 2024.
The drive-thru concept, to be tested in Atlanta, will feature four drive-thru lanes, two of which will be dedicated to mobile order pickups. The lanes will run under a kitchen twice the size of typical Chick-fil-A locations. Orders will travel through an overhead conveyor belt connected with chutes that run down the sides. Employees will still deliver food to cars.
The walk-up concept, to be tested in New York City, will serve as a point-of-pickup for mobile orders to better manage heavy traffic in urban areas. GPS tracking tied to mobile apps will help ensure the customer receives their order fresh. Limited walk-in options are available.
The 22nd Annual Drive-Thru Study by Intouch Insight, in partnership with QSR magazine, found Chick-fil-A tied with Carl’s Jr. at No. 1 for drive-thru “satisfaction with service” in 2022. However, Chick-fil-A had the longest average drive-thru wait and service time (eight minutes and 29 seconds) because it averages 4.74 cars in its drive-thru, much higher than the average of 2.76 cars among the 10 chains analyzed.
Long lines of cars waiting to place and pick up orders at drive-thrus often cause congestion and safety issues, leading towns and cities nationwide to consider banning new drive-thrus.
However, a recent survey of 2,000 U.S. adults from Dutch Bros. shows drive-thru remains highly popular despite the wait times. Twice as many people preferred using the drive-thru to going inside a fast-food restaurant or coffee shop, with 47% indicating that they’d avoid going to an establishment that didn’t have a drive-thru option.