Here's Why Chick-Fil-A Drive-Thru Lines Can Be So Stressful

A Reddit thread posted a year ago claims to display Chick-Fil-A's drive-thru guidelines at an undisclosed restaurant location. These outline a performance metric: a "minimum of 90 cars or $1,260 sales daily average during peak hours." While 90 seems high, that bar may actually be low. A Quora poster, and self-described former Chick-fil-A employee, testified to being able to handle up to "150+" cars an hour using the company's drive-thru system. That comes out to an almost impossible average of 2.5 cars a minute going through the drive-thru. 

Needless to say, the fast-food chain's drive-thru culture is taken seriously at a corporate level. Chick-fil-A even runs indoor mockups at their Atlanta headquarters to monitor and modify the drive-thru experience (via Chick-fil-A). Jared Solid, the company's drive-thru innovation lead, explained that for Chick-fil-A's drive-thru mentality. It's "a game of seconds," Solid said, "It's about putting the right people in the right places to shave off unnecessary time."

In some locations, "a game of seconds" may be more stressful than beneficial for customers and employees alike. A frustrated Chick-fil-A customer took to Reddit in March 2021, complaining that Chick-fil-A had asked them to drive and order simultaneously (via Reddit). In response to the thread, they received dozens of employee horror stories about the extraordinary pressure Chick-fil-A places on its drive-thru team.

Chick-fil-A employees describe their experiences working drive-thru

Chick-fil-A's official company policy seems to prohibit simultaneous driving and ordering, at least according to a self-described Chick-fil-A trainer on Reddit. But that doesn't prevent it from happening in reality.

"You guys have no idea how much they get on our a** about closing those gaps [between cars]," one alleged employee wrote, "It's one of the first things you learn." Another seconded that "'Guys, close the gaps' pretty much gives me PTSD lol." A third, who claimed to be a former Chick-fil-A drive-thru leader, chimed in, "Oooh you just dug up some of my trauma." Other self-described Chick-fil-A employees, both former and current, wrote of colleagues being fired for not "interrupt[ing] the guest" and, allegedly, of colleagues who got run over "while he was gesturing towards the salad dressings on the menu," and of car accidents caused by the management's insistence on moving lines along.

Part of Chick-fil-A's emphasis on drive-thru speed may stem from the fact that the company has been sued for the size of its drive-thru lines. In 2020, for example, a Toledo, Ohio Chick-fil-A faced a lawsuit for a drive-thru line that could accommodate "almost 100 cars" and which blocked access to neighboring stores (via Business Insider).