FOOD & RECIPES

Chick-fil-A wants to send your drive-thru chicken on a conveyor belt and down a chute

Jul 27, 2023, 4:43 PM

A rendering showing Chick-fil-A's new elevated drive-thru design. (Courtesy of Chick-fil-A, Inc.)...

A rendering showing Chick-fil-A's new elevated drive-thru design. (Courtesy of Chick-fil-A, Inc.)

(Courtesy of Chick-fil-A, Inc.)

(CNN) —Chick-fil-A is testing out two new restaurant concepts — a four-lane drive thru with a kitchen above and a walk-up store for digital orders — as it becomes the latest chain to try to get customers to skip the dining room.

The drive-thru is set to open in Atlanta next year. Customers can either order ahead via the Chick-fil-A app and then receive their meals at one of two lanes dedicated for mobile orders or order as usual through a regular drive-thru lane. That model’s kitchen is about double the typical size. To get the food from the kitchen to customers, the restaurant will use an overhead conveyer belt with chutes down the sides, a system similar to that already in some restaurants, according to the company.

The pick-up location is just that: Customers order ahead and then walk into the store to pick up their orders. It’s slated to open in New York City next year and is designed for urban locations with lots of foot traffic.

Chick-fil-A’s newest sandwich has no chicken in it

Speedy service is key for fast food restaurants, especially at the drive-thru, where a long line or a bad experience can scare off customers. Backed-up drive-thrus are even creating congestion for cities and towns. And digital orders can make for longer lines inside restaurants, where people kept waiting get frustrated.

In recent years, fast food restaurants have been experimenting with new formats, including drive-thru systems that get customers through the line more quickly and smaller stores that cater to people who don’t want to eat on premises.

McDonald’s (MCD) on Thursday announced that it is planning to start testing out a smaller-format concept called “CosMc’s” in a handful of locations next year, for example. Taco Bell has also been testing out drive-thru locations with second-story kitchens, delivering tacos to drive-thru customers via a “vertical lift.”

Chick-fil-A tends to earn top marks for its drive-thru, and for its service in general. But there’s room for improvement. In a drive-thru survey last year in which Chick-fil-A, along with Carl’s Jr., earned the top spot for satisfaction with service, the chicken chain failed to make the top five for order accuracy.


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Chick-fil-A wants to send your drive-thru chicken on a conveyor belt and down a chute