The Secret That Keeps Chick-Fil-A's Kitchens So Efficient - Exclusive

If there's one thing that defines Chick-fil-A no matter which location you're at, it's efficiency. The chain's nearly 3,000 locations run like well-oiled machines, from the moment you place an order to the "my pleasure" employees will leave you with when handing over your bag of fresh food. People know exactly what to expect when they visit a Chick-fil-A restaurant — pleasant, fast, consistent service. That's true whether you're sitting down in the bright, clean dining rooms (where staff will kindly bring you any condiment or service item you may need) or hitting the drive-thru lanes, which are usually long but pretty much always moving swiftly.

At the end of the day, it's hard to beat the consistent service and quality that you'll find at Chick-fil-A. It's something the company prides itself on and goes out of its way to maintain through a top-down strategy for excellence that starts right at the Chick-fil-A headquarters and test kitchen in Atlanta, Georgia. Mashed got the chance to pay a visit recently and taste one of the newest offerings coming to Chick-fil-A restaurants, the cauliflower sandwich.

Along the way, we learned all about how Chick-fil-A makes the magic happen — how they've achieved their reputation for amazing food and an unbeatable experience, and how they plan to keep delighting guests with their evolving menu. As the company's Menu and Packaging Director, Leslie Neslage, put it, "We have a full pipeline of menu innovation, and we want to make sure that anytime we bring something to market, it is the best in class, highest-quality ingredients, and that our team members and our operators can execute with excellence." So if you've ever wondered how the chicken chain keeps its kitchens so efficient — even during that daily lunch rush — then read on for the details.

Everything served at Chick-fil-A must pass through the rigorous standards of the test kitchen

Chick-fil-A's menu isn't extensive, but every single item on it is almost certain to please because it's been set up for success since the day of its inception. Chick-fil-A's team of culinary developers ensures that every offering not only tastes delicious, but that it can also be produced efficiently at every location, taking customers' cues at every step of the process.

"We have a full menu of variety, and at the same time, we can execute with excellence and make sure that our customers are in and out through our drive-thrus in a timely manner," said Leslie Neslate. If you're wondering how they can ensure this, Neslage said it's because nothing makes it to the public without undergoing a variety of tests and trials, both in-house and among select customer groups. If you see it on the menu, that means "we really stressed it, we vetted it, and we feel like we have something special. We're going to see — how does it come to life in our restaurants? ... What does the customer say they want? What do operators and team members say?"

That dual feedback is important because Chick-fil-A can't produce the quality food we've all come to crave without the full support of its operators and employees in the kitchen. So on top of being taste-tested by customers and employees alike, everything goes through the test kitchen at headquarters to ensure that every ingredient for every menu item "[arrives] to the restaurant in a way that an operator can easily understand and easily train their team on how you make it," Chick-fil-A's Lead Culinary Developer, Chef Stuart Tracy, told Mashed. The result of all this testing is good for everyone: Kitchens run smoothly, the quality is consistent, and customers are happy with every bite.

Chick-fil-A's new cauliflower sandwich is available at select locations in Colorado, North Carolina, and South Carolina.