Chick-Fil-A's Drive-Thru Is Proving That Quality Is More Important Than Quantity

It's rare to catch Chick-fil-A at a time it isn't packed, and numbers easily prove that, as the brand raked in more than $18 billion in 2022, according to Entrepreneur. However, its popularity doesn't immediately translate to efficiency, especially when the drive-thru is considered. QSR Magazine reported it takes 325.47 seconds to take a full lap through its drive-thru, which puts it behind many competitors including McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell. It's also not the most accurate choice — orders at Chick-fil-A are only correct 83% of the time.

Though the speed of service is listed as one of the top two most important factors when choosing a drive-thru, Chick-fil-A's slow times don't seem to deter too many. When interviewed by QSR, participants who frequent the company gave it a 95% satisfaction rating despite its long lines. The reason behind the crawling line is easily explainable; as it stands, the chicken giant has an average of 5.45 cars in line at any given time. In comparison, McDonald's, which is the second busiest drive-thru line, only sees 3.13 cars at once on average. This accompanied by the brand's "friendliest drive-thru" ranking helps customers forgive the few extra minutes. Still, Chick-fil-A is looking to improve. Not long ago, the company began implementing a new way to operate its drive-thru, which the brand believes could be faster going forward.

Chick-fil-A's drive-thru is always undergoing changes

In an effort to speed up drive-thru wait times, Chick-fil-A announced an innovative plan in the summer of 2022. Only available in test markets, the chicken chain has installed express drive-thru lines for those who order their food through the Chick-fil-A app. This way, loyal customers won't have to go inside or sit through long lines to make a selection. This is only one of the many drive-thru updates the brand has made.

In recent years, Chick-fil-A has also maximized its face-to-face interactions. On the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chick-fil-A implemented a car-side drive-thru method. During this process, employees take customers' orders at their cars and allow them to pay before they reach the window. In the end, it seems as if guests are able to get their food and be on their way quicker than in previous iterations of Chick-fil-A's drive-thru process. 

No matter what tactic Chick-fil-A uses next, it always keeps customer service at its forefront. "We believe that looking eye-to-eye with the customer allows for a connection that happens at the beginning of the drive-thru," senior director of hospitality and service design Matt Abercrombie said to QSR in 2022. It's perhaps because of this, guests usually don't mind hanging out a little longer, so long as the food is fresh and the employees are polite.