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Chick-fil-A Pilots 2 New Digital-Forward Store Designs

Chick-fil-A is shaking up its store designs, announcing two new walk-up and drive-thru concepts that prioritize efficiency and quicker service in the digital age. 

The drive-under concept Chick-fil-A is piloting in Atlanta

The redesigns were created for busy cities with high foot traffic, where digital orders account for over half of sales. For the digital walk-up concept, piloting in New York City next year, customers will be able to place an order for pickup using the Chick-fil-A app. The app will use a GPS feature that will give restaurants a guest’s location ahead of time.

In the elevated drive-thru concept, piloting in Atlanta next year, restaurants will include four lanes that pass under the restaurant’s second story, allowing for a capacity of 75 cars. The kitchen, twice the size of a standard Chick-fil-A, will transport orders through a conveyor belt connected to chutes that lead to pickup windows. From there, employees will deliver orders to cars. Two lanes will be designated for mobile orders.

Both concepts emphasize mobile orders. Khalilah Cooper, Chick-fil-A’s executive director of restaurant design, said in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News that app orders in these markets help with not only efficiency, but customer control.

“The goal is to be digital-forward. We are clearly communicating to guests that the primary pathway is ordering ahead of time,” Cooper said.

Because of the restaurant’s popularity, Chick-fil-A locations can impact the communities in which they're located, and Chick-fil-A has regularly retooled its drive-thru design in an attempt to smoothly handle more vehicles. For example, earlier this year, a store in North Carolina had to be razed and rebuilt due to its high traffic volume. The chain has also been expanding for years, and in 2021, it implemented modular builds to help it grow more quickly.

Chick-fil-A is the fifth-largest fast-food chain in the country, with over 2,800 locations nationwide. Last year, it opened 100 new locations and earned $6.4B in revenue, exceeding 2021’s $5.4B.

The fast-food industry in general earned $331B last year, down from 2021’s $797B in earnings