Chick-fil-A Remodel Misses the Mark

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A few months back, my local Chick-fil-A closed for remodeling. While I wasn’t upset with that, my daughter was.

As Katy has ballooned over recent years, expanding to the south and west, the supply of services has failed to keep pace. The consequence is that many local services are now oversubscribed generating traffic queues on once open roads. The local Chick-fil-A found itself in the enviable position of having peak time drive-thru queues lined up beyond their parking lot and onto the street.

For quite some time it’s been much faster to get service by parking in the lot of the nearby Target and walking into the building. That approach also saves on gas.

The remodel of the location took the drive-thru lane from one order point to two but, as a customer, the bottleneck was never placing the order. The bottle neck was the single window for payment and delivery of the purchase.

By failing to address the root cause of the bottleneck, having two order stations has done nothing to reduce the queue, since payment and delivery still happens at the single window.

Happy as the staff always appears to be, it can’t be much fun working the drive-thru. The work space is cramped at peak times and at least two individuals are trying to serve the customer – one taking payment and giving change and another handing out the order – both through the same small window!

The end result is the apron can hold one or two more cars before the line backs up onto the highway but the wait to be served hasn’t changed – and at peak times, the line still extends out onto the street.

Since the restaurant was closed for the construction work, I wonder if the owner looked for an opportunity to separate the payment space from the delivery space – most other drive-thru’s in my locale take this approach. Perhaps the owner did and the opportunity for such a re-design was not possible or unreasonably expensive – I don’t know. And fortunately for the owner, business appears as brisk now the restaurant is reopened as it was before.

But why didn’t the owner go one step further? A reasonable number of customers pay with credit cards. There are lots of places that have card readers at unmanned point-of-sale locations – such as parking garages. Why didn’t the owner install card readers at the ordering station? Or go one further and accept payment by smart phone (again at the order station)? For months now I’ve been paying for Starbucks with the Starbucks app on my iPhone. I would wager that most Chick-fil-A customers are repeat customers as are Starbucks customers so a smartphone app with digital wallet would probably get reasonable traction.

Since the line is often static while an order is being delivered, allowing the customer to pay at the order station would alleviate some of the load at the service delivery window without negatively impacting queuing time, yet it would allow the service delivery window to reduce the load to just delivering the food for most of the customers (except the ones paying cash – but there are machines for that also).

So when I find myself going to this Chick-fil-A at peak times, I still park in the Target lot and walk in for my order. After all, most times I can get in, get served, and get out and find the drive-thru line hasn’t moved at all – and I also get my brownie since nine times out of ten they forget it at the drive-thru window!

This has been a guest post by Richard Davis.  Richard solves business process problems through the application of technology. He has over 25-years experience implementing process improvements in large global enterprises deploying technologies that range from the pencil and paper to the latest ERP systems. He firmly believes in right-tech over high-tech. He lives with his wife and two children in Katy, Texas. He occasionally blogs at and you can follow him on Twitter at

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Davis published on February 13, 2012 8:12 AM.

Yum Brands is Doing the Right Thing was the previous entry in this blog.

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