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Khalilah Cooper Chick-fil-A
Join us in Denver Oct. 4-6 for CREATE: The Future of Foodservice, where Cooper will share more on Chick-fil-A’s digital strategy.

How Chick-fil-A uses technology to innovate at the drive-thru

Senior director of service and hospitality Khalilah Cooper on learning from the brand’s operators

When the pandemic wiped out dine-in business early in 2020, Chick-fil-A didn’t require any big evolution with its service model, as it already relied heavily on drive-thru. But the company still invested in protecting its industry-best hospitality and creating a smooth drive-thru experience using technology. Khalilah Cooper, the brand’s senior director of service and hospitality, talks about how the company learned from its operators as it ensured a modern yet friendly drive-thru experience.

Join us in Denver Oct. 4-6 for CREATE: The Future of Foodservice, where Cooper will share more on Chick-fil-A’s digital strategy.

How did Chick-fil-A keep up its best-in-class hospitality as all business was directed to the drive-thru?

From the very beginning of the pandemic, we were in restaurants, boots on the ground trying to figure out in partnership with operators what were the things that they needed early on and how we could help them support their teams and very quickly get solutions out to help them pivot their business. We closed our dining rooms before that was even a requirement because we saw what was coming and we felt like we really wanted to be on the front end of this to make sure that we were creating a safe experience.

We were very clear about it so that everybody could be singing off the same sheet of music, and that was to focus on safe service first. That’s something that has been consistent throughout this entire  pandemic. All of our solutions, the response, it’s all been through the lens of making sure that we are serving in a safe way, that we are elevating all of our touch points to make sure that we were protecting team members and guests from COVID as best as we could. That was something that was paramount in bringing that hospitality to bear.

What are some things Chick-fil-A has learned about innovation in the past year and a half?

We’ve been innovating for years. Our operators are really great at this. They’re the ones who are working on solutions in their restaurants, tinkering even before we are seeing some types of opportunities or challenges across our entire system. And so we aim to learn from our operators, because they are on the front lines. They’re the ones solving those problems each and every day.

Our technology is there to facilitate an interaction between people, and so if we can take tasks off of our team members to allow them to give that warm welcome or that genuine smile to a guest, those are the types of things that we’re looking to continue to lean into — whether that’s the Chick-fil-A One app, iPads in the drive thru or other technologies that can really allow for team members to serve those guests with a high level of excellence.

How has technology evolved over the past year and a half throughout the system?

Everything has changed, so technology is just a piece of that and we’re trying to look at our business and our experience with fresh eyes, looking at what our guests expect now that they didn’t expect two years ago. We talk about how we have fast-forwarded five years from where we thought we might be in 2021. We’re doing some things and exploring things and guests are expecting experiences that we might not have seen come to fruition until 2024-2025.

Everything has changed; how do we do things differently with a fresh perspective without losing those things that customers have come to know and love about their Chick-fil-A experience?

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