Chick-fil-A is testing a new mobile-order drive-thru

The “Drive-Thru Express” lane is in 60 locations and could roll out to additional restaurants next year.
Chick-fil-A mobile order drive-thru
Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A, whose drive-thrus have become legendary for their long lines and noteworthy innovations, is giving customers who don’t want to leave their car another option: Mobile orders.

The Atlanta-based chicken chain said on Wednesday that it is testing what it calls “Drive-Thru Express” lanes that are targeted at mobile order customers.

The idea is to give customers the option to order ahead and get their food from their cars while helping employees serve customers more efficiently.

“We recognize that Chick-fil-A restaurants are busy because customers value the experience and hospitable service we offer,” Jonathan Lassiter, senior integration leader for Chick-fil-A, said in a statement. “By giving guests the opportunity to order and pay ahead through the Chick-fil-A app, checking in at the dedicated lane becomes a seamless experience, making the express drive-thru lane a convenient new option.”

Mobile-order lanes have become increasingly popular at all kinds of restaurants as chains have scrambled to give customers additional takeout order channels. Chipotle Mexican Grill has been aggressively adding its mobile order “Chipotlanes” to locations across the country. The Mexican chain Taco Bell recently opened a new prototype that features three mobile-order lanes in addition to a traditional drive-thru window.

Restaurant chains have found that these windows can reduce time in traditional drive-thru lanes because they give customers a different option.

Chick-fil-A said that its express lane has been shown to decrease the wait time “significantly” because customers order ahead and paid, so they spend less time waiting.

The company also said that most customers that used the option used it again on their next visit.

These are important elements for Chick-fil-A, whose stand-alone locations generate an average volume of $8 million but can lure long lines of customers both inside and in the drive-thru—where some of its locations have angered neighbors and one of which drew the ire of local officials who have threatened to declare it a public nuisance.

The chain, which operates 2,700 locations, has used numerous strategies to speed that service, including multiple lanes, numerous order takers and access doors for staff.

Customers of the chain who want to pick up their orders through the “Drive-Thru Express” lane choose that option on their mobile app when they order, though that has to be a location with one available. They then follow signs to the lane, use the app to scan a QR code and then pull around to receive their order from an employee.

“We see this as a way to serve customers more effectively and give them more control over their experience,” Lassiter said. “The lengthiest part of our drive-thru ordering process is the brief wait to get your order taken. The express lane cuts down ordering and payment time significantly.”

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