Skip navigation
Brake Room exterior.jpeg Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A
Exterior of Chick-fil-A's Brake Room

Why Chick-fil-A is opening a ‘Brake Room’ for NYC’s delivery drivers

Chick-fil-A’s Brake Room, in NYC’s Upper East Side, is open to any delivery driver and includes complimentary beverages, WiFi, bike storage and more.

A new concept will open tomorrow on Third Avenue in New York City’s Upper East Side. It will include subtle Chick-fil-A branding, but it won’t be serving the chain’s signature chicken sandwiches. In fact, it won’t be selling anything at all.

“The Brake Room,” as it’s called, is a limited-time space that was created by the chain simply to provide a respite for the city’s 65,000-plus foodservice delivery drivers. That is any foodservice delivery driver, whether they deliver for Chick-fil-A or not. The Brake Room is located at 1477 Third Ave. and will be open from Feb. 16 through April 13 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It includes bathrooms, phone charger stations, privacy alcoves, comfortable seating, free WiFi and complimentary beverages. The timing of the popup is intentional, as winter in New York City can be harsh for these employees, many of whom are delivering food via bike.

According to Katie Joiner, Chick-fil-A’s principal team leader, marketing, who oversees this initiative, the idea behind this type of space came about before the pandemic, when the company started experiencing an increase in delivery sales. Covid accelerated that sales mix – for Chick-fil-A and the entire industry – and this project became a bit more urgent. New York City is the chain’s biggest delivery market, though the chain wouldn’t disclose specific numbers.

“The community of delivery drivers has been on our minds for a long time. For a number of our guests who don’t come into our restaurants, drivers are the point of contact they have with our brand,” Joiner said during a recent interview at Chick-fil-A’s headquarters in Atlanta. “We started thinking about how to show care for this group – these essential workers who get us through our day-to-day lives. Our business relies on them, and we wanted to show up in a remarkable way and show gratitude to them.”

Joiner and her team created seven focus groups of delivery drivers in August and September to understand what the community needed most in such a space. That feedback also informed the operational hours and the relaxing “coffeehouse-esque” model.

“This is a wildly diverse group. Some are doing this part-time, some are doing this full-time, some are entrepreneurs, and their bike is their business. We wanted to make sure we were covering all of their needs,” she said. “In New York City, there is a lag time from about 2 to 5 p.m. where there aren’t as many deliveries, so instead of going back home, drivers can come here to rest. We heard they wanted comfortable chairs because they're on their bikes all day and we said, 'OK, we can do that.' The other thing we heard was that they needed bike storage during their downtime. We have a space downstairs to park about 40 or so bikes.”

The Brake Room includes security guards and has a check-in system to verify who can use the space – drivers have to prove they’ve made a delivery for one of the major delivery companies within the past week. All told, the space is about 5,000 square feet. It used to be a gym until Covid hit and has sat empty for a couple of years. Joiner said Chick-fil-A is footing the bill on the real estate, as well as the complimentary features, and Chick-fil-A operators throughout the city will also offer “surprise and delight” pop-ins, with free meals, treats and beverages, the week of Feb. 20.

The Brake Room might not have a return on investment on par with Chick-fil-A’s high-volume restaurants, but Joiner insists there’s a business case with the project nonetheless.

“We have had a great experience working with delivery drivers and we see this as an opportunity to thank them. We think it’s the right thing to do to care for the folks who help with our business,” she said. “There is no downside here.”

Chick-fil-A is extending that gratitude with a storytelling component to complement the space. Real drivers’ photos are featured on the building façade and in targeted ads throughout the city, for instance. Inside, there is a wall with scrolling “thank you” messages submitted by delivery customers throughout the country.

“We want to be able to make them feel special and appreciated because they’ve helped us reach so many of our guests,” Joiner said.

Once the Brake Room closes in April, it’s the company’s hope that more of these types of experiences grow throughout Chick-fil-A’s system. For now, Joiner said many operators already provide free food or refreshments to drivers, and the company has deployed an “activation guide” outlining “the standard ways we care for delivery drivers” as well as additional ideas.

“We are putting a lot of thought into making sure these folks come in and get what they need while trying to be as respectful of their time as possible,” Joiner said. “This company is always looking for ways to show up for our different communities and this is one way we’re doing that.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A Brake Room Interior.jpeg

Chick-fil-A Brake Room interior


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.