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Chick-fil-A Drive-Thru Efficiency Boosts Customer Satisfaction and Sales

The fan-favorite chicken chain saw U.S. sales total nearly $19 billion last year, up from $16.7 billion in 2021, with drive-thru locations averaging more than $8.5 million per unit.

Chick-fil-A disclosed in its latest FDD on Wednesday that it achieved $18.8 billion in U.S. systemwide sales in the previous year, according to QSR. This represents a steady increase from $16.6 billion in 2021, $13.7 billion in 2020, and $12.2 billion in 2019.

There are several reasons for this growth, but one of the most prominent, and one of the reasons the chain has always stood out from the pack, comes down to one thing: the drive-thru. According to the report, Chick-fil-A drive-thru locations are averaging more than $8.5 million per unit, up from $8.1 million in 2021 and $7.1 million in 2020. The highest-performing location brought in a whopping $16.9 million. For comparison, Chick-fil-A locations without drive-thrus averaged $2.7 million.

In recent years, Chick-fil-A has made significant investments to expedite vehicle flow through its drive-thru lines, doubling or even tripling lanes and deploying numerous order-takers to address demand. Although the 2022 QSR Drive-Thru Report indicated that Chick-fil-A's overall service time was slower compared to other chains, it secured the top position for average total time spent by cars in line. Consequently, the company achieved an outstanding 93% speed of service satisfaction rating.

This type of satisfaction has helped the chain garner a rabid fan base over recent years. During the pandemic, Chick-fil-A ranked higher than all other quick-service restaurants in regards to ‘brand intimacy’, according to MBLM's Brand Intimacy COVID study.

Additionally, Chick-fil-A’s unique franchise model, in which the company covers all opening expenses for franchisees but “requires a holistic commitment to own and operate the business in a hands-on manner,” has also proven to be a boon for sales growth.

“So why is Chick-fil-A doing so well? The obvious answer is... delicious food. But the business model deserves some credit too,” Jack Pilcher, Data Storytelling at Chartr, said on Linkedin. “Chick-fil-A has a fairly unique franchise system — the company typically only lets owners own one franchise location (as opposed to multiple). In theory that could have limited the company's growth, but it also means Chick-fil-A franchisees are laser focused on their one store.”

The limited approach hasn't hindered Chick-fil-A's overall franchise growth momentum. In 2022, the chain expanded by a net 100 stores, increasing from 2,311 to 2,411 franchised and company-operated locations. Although Chick-fil-A reduced its company-owned restaurant count by eight stores, from 81 to 73, it expanded its franchised presence by 108 outlets, growing from 2,230 to 2,338.

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