Chick-fil-A is opening a lot more mobile-order lanes

The chicken sandwich chain is adding “Mobile Thru” lanes to its drive-thrus in 300 locations amid a growing number of efforts to bolster its digital business.
Chick-fil-A mobile thru
Chick-fil-A plans "Mobile Thru" lanes in 300 locations by the end of the year. | Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A.

Chick-fil-A is working to make life easier for its mobile-order customers.

The chicken sandwich chain this week said it plans to add mobile order lanes to drive-thrus in 300 locations this year, or just more than 10% of its more than 2,800 locations. It also promises to expand the lanes to more locations in 2024.

It’s the latest evidence of the Atlanta-based chain’s growing aggressiveness on digital orders. The company is testing digital-centric prototypes, for instance, and will now start preparing customers’ mobile orders while they’re on their way to the restaurant.

The company says its mobile order lanes, which Chick-fil-A calls “Mobile Thru,” have proven popular with customers: 85% said they would use the service again and 90% said the service went smoothly. The company started testing mobile order lanes last year.

“Our hope with Mobile Thru is to help guests experience the drive-thru quicker than ever before,” Julie Ledford, principal program lead on Chick-fil-A’s service and hospitality team, said in a statement. “By dedicating one of our lanes exclusively for mobile order pickup, we are creating an easier and more efficient experience for our guests on the go.”

Chick-fil-A said customers making a mobile order simply have to select “Mobile Thru” as their pickup destination, if available in their local market. The app then features a QR code, which customers scan in the mobile lane before getting their food from an employee.

Mobile orders have become increasingly popular at fast-food chains in recent years, particularly in the post-pandemic era as consumers have grown accustomed to ordering food from an app that they pick up at the restaurant.

Just about every major fast-food chain has focused more of its attention on that area, largely because of consumers’ growing use of the channel but also because of the connection with loyalty programs, which provide chains with one-to-one marketing and more consumer data.

Giving customers options to pick up their mobile orders, however, has led a number of chains to explore different options, such as pickup shelves or lockers. But lanes in the drive-thru have also become common, pioneered by chains like Chipotle that use mobile order lanes rather than traditional drive-thru lanes.

For fast-food brands, the lanes could potentially ease congestion in the drive-thru. Few chains run into as many challenges with drive-thru congestion as Chick-fil-A. A typical stand-alone Chick-fil-A generates more than $8 million in revenue per year, and backups in the drive-thru have led to lawsuits and various headaches with local regulators.

Chick-fil-A said its Mobile Thru customers receive their meal faster, and they “don’t diminish the experience of traditional drive-thru customers.”

“We understand that Chick-fil-A guests can experience wait times while ordering at a busy restaurant, which is why we created a new convenient drive-thru option,” Ledford said.

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