Photo by Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images
- Chick-fil-A restaurants average $8 million a year in sales.
- Its restaurants are among the busiest in the US, leading to out-of-control drive-thrus lines.
- One city recently ordered the chain to demolish and rebuild a restaurant to address traffic woes.
Chick-fil-A’s snaking drive-thru lines, which frequently spill into city streets, are notorious throughout the US.
In one North Carolina city, the problem is so vexing – and potentially dangerous to pedestrians – local officials ordered the chain to demo the restaurant and start over.
The city’s solution to the restaurant’s traffic-clogging line was to add more drive-thru lanes and eliminate the dining room.
On the surface, the fix offered by Charlotte, North Carolina, city planners doesn’t make sense.
Won’t more lanes welcome more cars?
But city planners say the restaurant’s new design prevents cars from backing up onto the main road. The two drive-thru lanes wrap the restaurant, according to the proposal approved by the Charlotte City Council last month.
A Chick-fil-A in Charlotte, North Carolina, is being rebuilt as a drive-thru only restaurant to address traffic in the retail center.
Charlotte, North Carolina documents
New walkways linking public sidewalks to the drive-thru-only restaurant are also expected to keep pedestrians safe and prevent cars from blocking the sidewalk, city documents show.
The demo and rebuild are expected to begin soon and could take six or more months to complete, Chick-fil-A told Insider. The drive-thru-only restaurant will have a walk-up area and patio dining.
“Our goal is that these updates to Chick-fil-A Cotswold will not only ease traffic concerns for the community but also allow the restaurant to better serve our customers with the great food and service they expect from us,” the chain said in a statement. “Chick-fil-A restaurants in Charlotte always strive to be a good neighbor and have been strong supporters of their local communities.”
Chick-fil-A is contributing $70,000 toward the price of a new traffic signal and other improvements outlined in the project. The Atlanta-based fast-food chain did not provide the cost of razing and rebuilding the restaurant, operated by a local franchisee.
Chick-fil-A won’t have to start from scratch to design the new drive-thru-only format. As of October, the chain had more than 30 drive-thru-only locations in the US.
Chick-fil-A restaurants average $8 million a year in sales. As such, the chain’s restaurants are among the busiest in the country.
Intouch Insight’s national drive-thru survey consistently ranks Chick-fil-A as having the slowest drive-thru times, with its latest average time clocking in at nearly 8.5 minutes. But the survey also said Chick-fil-A is efficient. For three consecutive years, the chain’s drive-thrus were ranked the fastest when accounting for the total number of cars served.
Still, the chain faces irate residents and small business owners in many cities across the US.
Last year, Santa Barbara, California, known for its resistance to fast-food chains, nearly declared Chick-fil-A a nuisance. But, the chain and the city devised a traffic drive-thru plan to prevent cars from spilling into State Street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares.
Since the onset of the pandemic, at least four lawsuits linked to out-of-control drive-thru lines have been filed against Chick-fil-A, Insider previously reported.
Over the last three years, the chain said it has rolled out programs to improve drive-thru service, including adding extra drive-thru lanes to restaurants, building new takeout-focused stores, and expanding order-taking with tablets.
In June 2022, Chick-fil-A began testing drive-thru express lanes, allowing mobile app customers to bypass the traditional drive-thru line to pick up their meals. The chain called the express lanes “a game-changer for our busy customers.”
Are you a fast-food insider with insight to share? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at email@example.com.