Notorious Nuisance: Traffic At Chick-Fil-A Forces Restaurant Rebuilds
A North Carolina location is the latest Chick-fil-A outpost to nix its indoor dining in favor of an expanded drive-thru, after lines of cars leaking out onto a busy local road became a consistent nuisance.
Drive-thru lines at fast-food joints of all kinds have lengthened steadily in recent years after the pandemic put a crimp in indoor dining. Restaurants with cult followings in particular have seen lines back up, sometimes tying up traffic beyond their own parking lots.
For example, the Chick-fil-A in the Cotswold neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina, attracts so much traffic that cars on thoroughfare Randolph Road regularly come to a halt. With support from some city leaders, the restaurant chain devised a plan — reflected in a rezoning petition in 2021 — to deal with the issue.
Under the plan, Chick-fil-A will raze the existing restaurant and replace it with a drive-thru-only location with more lanes. These extra lanes will accommodate customers waiting for their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries without allowing them to spill over into traffic.
"Our goal is that these updates to Chick-fil-A Cotswold will not only ease traffic concerns for the community but also allow the restaurant to better serve our customers with the great food and service they expect from us," the chain said in a statement, as reported by Business Insider.
The Charlotte City Council voted 8-3 later in January to approve the change, though there were objections that doing so represented a backward step in making Charlotte a more walkable city. Eventually, the goal of smoother traffic flow won out.
“This was a drive-through yesterday. It is a drive-through today and no matter what we do around here, it will be a drive-through tomorrow,” Councilman Tariq Bokhari said, as reported by Yahoo News.
“The question at hand is someone with their own dollars in the private sector has decided to come forward and invest and make it better, more efficient, more walkable,” Bokhari said.
There will be no inside dine-in service at the rebuilt location, with space formerly used for parking cars given over to the expanded drive-through lanes. The new restaurant will offer a walk-up window and outside patio seating, however.
The Charlotte Planning, Design and Development Department recommended approval of the petition in early January, noting that “the site design is intended to improve functionality of the use and the pedestrian and access improvements could provide benefits to the transportation infrastructure in the immediate area.”
Chick-fil-A has 2,400 locations, including 30 drive-thru-only locations.
The poultry purveyor has run into the traffic issue before, leading Chick-fil-A to roll out the drive-thru-only concept in the pre-pandemic years. But it doesn't always solve the problem, as a Washington, D.C., neighborhood learned when such a location opened on Maryland Avenue. Within just a week of the restaurant's opening, locals found their residential street access impeded.