Chick-fil-A Building New Store With Four Drive-Thru Lanes And Walk-Up Location With No Digital Menu Displays
July 31, 2023 by Dave Haynes
Drive-thru has been a huge part of the business for many to most QSR operators in North America, and pandemic-driven restrictions made that method of taking and fulfilling fast food orders essential – leading to something of a boom in demand for outdoor-rated pre-sell and menu displays, as well as the underlying technology. Now we’re seeing QSRs that didn’t put much focus on drive-thru, like Shake Shack, add that capability, and national operators like Chick-fil-A rethink operations and building designs to make drive-thu and mobile the primary ways customers order and receive their chicken sandwiches and shakes.
QSR magazine reports that the Atlanta company will open a new restaurant in its home city next year that has a four-lane drive thru set-up that addresses conventional order-at-the-screen processes in two lanes and order-ahead, pick-up on site motorists in the other two. They all roll through a covered canopy, with the kitchen up above on level two. The set employs some sort of “food transport system” to get the finished orders to the lower level, where staffers hand off branded bags to waiting motorists.
The set-up can manage up to 75 cars at any given time.
In another nod to the changing ways order and pick-up fast food, a second test store in Atlanta is being developed for urban locations that is all about pick-up and not dine-in. Customers order ahead via the QSR’s app and, when they arrive, they approach something more akin to a hotel check-in counter. There are no menu boards and no view into a chicken. The only displays are separate status displays for walk-in pickups and for 3rd-party mobile delivery gig workers.
This is interesting on a bunch of levels. Chick-fil-A has far fewer stores than other national brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks, its sales per store have been described as “insane.” So what they do is influential, particularly when a lot of the company’s success is attributed to the quality of customer service.
Building two lanes on QSR lot just for order-ahead and drive-thru pickup suggests consumer expectations are shifting and that app usage and comfort are going up, which perhaps diminishes the need in the longer term for displays in the drive-thru. It also suggests for walk-in locations that digital menu boards may be needed less, while order management and status displays will rise in importance and prevalence. It definitely speaks to the need for CMS software companies that chase the food service business to be fully integrated with the business systems of operators, though I’d argue a display that just shows a name and order ticket number doesn’t need a full digital signage CMS.