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chick fil aMobile Pickup 1.jpg Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A's new mobile pickup restaurant in New York City.

Chick-fil-A ready to debut its first mobile pickup restaurant

Chick-fil-A’s test prototype is located in New York City and is designed for mobile and delivery orders.

Chick-fil-A’s first-ever mobile pickup restaurant will open March 21 at 79th and 2nd on the Upper East Side of New York City. The restaurant is one of two new test concepts the company announced last year, the second of which is an elevated drive-thru concept projected to open in the Atlanta market later this year.

The mobile pickup restaurant does not offer a seating area or dine-in services but does include clear “pathways” for mobile orders and delivery drivers. Each path includes an active status board screen so customers and drivers can see when their order is ready in real time.

“These status boards will specify each order’s status as ‘preparing’ or ‘ready,’ prompting when the customer or delivery driver should come to the front to mitigate congestion in the restaurant and increase speed of service,” Nathanial Cates, senior principal design lead for Chick-fil-A, said in an email.

Cates adds that the prototype allows busy customers to spend as little time as possible waiting for their food, with new processes added that streamline operations. There are no menu boards, registers, or drink dispensers, for instance.

This “focuses the emphasis on team members’ signature hospitality as the focal point of the design,” Cates said.

“Although this is a mobile or delivery-focused experience, the restaurant’s layout ensures that our signature hospitality is at the forefront,” he said.

Additionally, the restaurant uses geofencing technology to expedite the ordering process and ensure meals are timed to coincide with guests’ arrival. If a customer is unable to order ahead, a QR code inside the restaurant allows them to order online upon arrival.

The chain is opening this test restaurant because the sales mix of both delivery and mobile orders continues to increase. Space will be allocated equally between these two channels in the front of house, while the back of house also includes separate prep areas for each channel to ensure speed and accuracy.

The prototype itself is around 3,500 square feet, primarily made up of the standard size kitchen and staging area. The front of house is much smaller at around 400 square feet, Cates said.  A typical Chick-fil-A restaurant ranges from 5,000-to-6,500 square feet.  The new location is also staffed more tightly than a traditional location, with just over 40 employees. For context, a recent traditional restaurant opening in Hawaii employs about 140 people. Most NYC employees will service the kitchen, though Cates notes there will also be members staffed at the front counter to make sure customers have what they need.

In a fast-paced urban environment, sometimes hospitality is best delivered through convenient locations and quick service,” he said. “We know our NYC customers have a strong appetite for convenience and fast service.”

That convenience and speed is why New York City was chosen as the test market for this specific prototype. Digital orders in the market make up more than half of the total sales in some markets, and New York’s exceeds that number. Cates said the company will monitor the restaurant’s performance to determine if similar prototypes could fit in other markets, especially those with a high digital sales mix.

The mobile pickup restaurant’s owner/operator is Jared Caldwell, who is currently the owner/operator of a nearby Chick-fil-A restaurant on 3rd Avenue and 86th street.

“His selection to lead the new concept was a strategic decision to meet the growing demand for digital ordering and provide as many service options as possible to the on-the–go New York City customer base,” Cates said.  “While digital concepts are becoming more prevalent, it’s important that we evolve in a uniquely Chick-fil-A way – meeting the changing needs of our customers without compromising the signature service and care they’ve grown to know and love.”

Chick-fil-A counts nearly 3,000 domestic locations and has opened about 100 restaurants each year for the past several years, while digital sales have simultaneously ramped up to around 40%, and even 50% in some markets. During a recent interview, Khalilah Cooper, Chick-fil-A’s executive director of restaurant design, said this test prototype and the elevated drive-thru test prototype are part of a more targeted format strategy to better future-proof the brand.

“We want to show up uniquely in different markets to help meet the needs of different customers, and we want to have more flexibility. In some markets, we might have access to different parcels, and that’s ok because we just have to be innovative,” she said. “We are thinking about the types of ways customers want to engage with us and making sure our designs meet those expectations.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]


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