The fast food world continues to adapt to the consumer’s post-pandemic way of life, working on drive-thru improvements, relying on apps, and pushing foods that its restaurants can produce faster.
There’s been a bit of a lull in the action lately, but Chick-fil-A has decided to take advantage of their competitors’ siesta and keep pushing forward with the consumer’s need for speed.
After a two-year test and 90% of consumers giving the idea a thumbs-up, the company has started rolling out a dedicated, express drive-thru lane for mobile orders.
The new lane allows guests to pick up their orders whenever they want. Yes, other chains have a pre-ordering option, but customers have to wait in line with everyone else who’s placed an order.
How does this work? The company claims it’s pretty simple – customers just choose a restaurant location and, if the express lane is available, they’ll click on “Mobile Thru” as the pickup destination and then place an order.
When they pull into the restaurant, they follow the signs to the Mobile Thru lane, use the app to scan a QR code, and then pull around to receive their order from a friendly restaurant Team Member.
The new express lane is available at 300 locations across the U.S.
Building designs and robots
Chick-fil-A is leaning into the digital world in two other ways, too. Because of the high volume of traffic it’s getting these days, drive-thru lanes have gotten so clogged that the chain was even forced to tear down one drive-thru and completely rebuild.
That wake-up call is forcing the chain to accelerate its efficiency quotient to make more room for customers in cars.
The answer, the company thinks, is a new elevated drive-thru and a walk-up design. The company believes that those redesigns in concert with digital ordering will make visits more convenient than ever before.
Here's how it's supposed to function.
Both initiatives are slated to open in 2024 -- the drive-thru concept in Atlanta and the walk-up concept will open in New York City.
Another modernization effort, however, might raise some eyebrows – especially with the customers who’ve voted Chick-fil-A as their favorite fast food stop. That initiative is robot servers. Yes, little R2D2, Wall-E types that deliver meals to sit-down diners.
"While the robots are delivering meals, friendly Team Members spend their time refreshing beverages, clearing tables, and providing guests the hospitality Chick-fil-A is known for," the chain told Insider.
And the robot not only delivers meals to the table, but it can talk, too. One visitor told Insider that he didn't see a single employee in the dining room during a recent morning visit. When the robot arrived at his table, it told him: "Howdy, please place your table number in the basket."
One thing the robot couldn't do? Get him a drink refill.
"Had to go up to get drink refill which usually had been done by the host in dining room," he told Insider in an email.
The test is still only a test, Chick-fil-A said, at a "small number of Chick-fil-A restaurants as a helping hand to assist team members with serving guests in the dining room."
Did someone say hamburgers?
The other move in Chick-fil-A's hat trick is probably catching its competitors way off-guard. It's called the "Little Blue Menu" -- a concept that allows the company to create slimmed-down locations with a slimmed down menu loaded with interesting twists.
Interesting as in... ready? Burgers, brussels sprouts, and bone-in chicken wings! But still with its signature chicken sandwich alongside.
Chick-fil-A started testing the Little Blue Menu brand in Nashville two years ago. Satisfied with the feedback it got from customers, it's now moving into the next phase of the concept as a standalone Little Blue Menu location in College Park, Maryland starting this month.