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Inside Chick-fil-A's obsession with speed and service

NRN presents Consumer Picks, a data-driven report on customer preference and restaurant brand strength. Data for this report is provided by market research firm Datassential. Find out more about the data here and read more about the methodology here.

For years, Chick-fil-A has had a cult following for its pickle-brined fried chicken sandwiches, always with the requisite three pickle chips, and always served with a warm and enthusiastic smile.

The Atlanta-based chain has been growing at impressive speed, particularly for a brand of its size — 16.7% sales growth in 2018, pushing it past the $10 billion mark in annual domestic foodservice sales and making it the third largest chain in the United States, according to NRN Top 200 data — and it has done it while maintaining top quality food and unfailingly gracious service, as illustrated by its high Consumer Picks scores in food quality and service.

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The quick-service brand was ranked No. 1 for service and No. 2 overall for food quality, out of more than 200 brands from all segments.

There are certain universal hallmarks in Chick-fil-A’s customer service approach. For example, employees are instructed to respond to expressions of “thank from” customers with “My pleasure,” rather than “You’re welcome.”

But elsewhere the chain has adapted to its surroundings.

Stories abound of Chick-fil-A staff members waiting for customers with umbrellas during rainstorms, and when it opened in New York City the chain developed a new style of service.

Since Chick-fil-A couldn’t install drive-thru windows at its Midtown Manhattan locations, management instead equipped its staff with tablets that allowed them to take and process orders while they stood in line and then transmitted to both the kitchen and the waiting cashiers. That way, their order could be in process before the customer had even paid.

Company executives have said winning this “game of seconds,” particularly at the drive-thru, is a top priority.

That focus on customers’ needs in any situation has helped Chick-fil-A to maintain a loyal following.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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