Chick-fil-A is Food On Demand’s next Outstanding Operator. 

The chain is being recognized for innovating its off-premises side of the business, from building digital-friendly prototypes, order-ahead mobile lanes to testing new concepts to streamline delivery. 

The fast-casual has over 3,000 locations and opens more than 100 stores each year. Most recently, it opened its first mobile pickup restaurant in New York City where it solely fulfils digital orders. 

Chick-fil-A opened its first mobile pickup restaurant in New York City in March 2024.

The downsized location features status board screens that allow customers and delivery couriers to see when orders are ready in real-time. Geofencing alerts the restaurant when customers are on the way, so employees know when to start cooking the meals.  

Drive-thru innovation 

Retrofitting locations to be more digitally friendly has been a priority for Chick-fil-A for yearsThis is best reflected in the chain’s investment in multi-lane drive-thrus. 

In 2023 the brand began building mobile, order-ahead lanes, dubbed “Mobile-Thru Lanes”. 

These lanes speed up the pickup process, allowing customers to order ahead via the app and skip the regular drive-thru lane. 

Customers simply select “Mobile-Thru” as their pickup destination. The app then features a QR code to scan before getting their food from an employee. 

Chick-fil-A operator and franchisee Aaron Grant knows the benefits of this first-hand. He runs a restaurant out of Granbury, Texas. At the time of this interview, Grant was ramping up to undergo construction to add the Mobile-Thru lane. 

The “Mobile-Thru” lane allows for customers to order ahead for pickup.

“You don’t have to talk to anyone, it creates a much quicker service than you would typically get by just talking to somebody through the speaker,” he said. 

Additionally, using the mobile app gives customers access to valuable loyalty points. At Grant’s location, he awards an extra 50 loyalty points when a consumer orders ahead and picks up in the drive-thru.

We’re trying to incentivize the drive-thru because that’s where our team is at and it helps avoid congestion coming inside,” he said. 

Sky-high deliveries take flight

In addition, Grant has sent out sky-high meal deliveries through the company Flytrex. 

Flytrex deploys drones capable of flying five miles roundtrip and can carry up to 6.6 pounds. Grant says about 15-10 meals a day go out through the aerial service.

Flytrex deploys drones for sky-high meal deliveries.

Flytrex deploys drones for sky-high meal deliveries.

“People are still scratching their heads, like are you kidding?” said Grant—reflecting on customer reactions. “Food flying from the sky!? Yeahit’s crazy,” he said. 

Grant reminisced on when Chick-fil-A’s corporate team came out to Texas to see what the buzz was all about. During a test flight, the drone safely completed a delivery carrying four large lemonades. 

“We were standing there and it dropped perfectly, didn’t mess up and there we were…all drinking lemonade that just fell from the sky,” he said. 

Aaron Grant, owner and operator of Chick-fil-A in Granbury, Texas.

Grant says the service works similar to third-party delivery. A Flytrex member will come into the restaurant, pick up the order and load it into the drone—which is completely autonomous and does not require a pilot. However, for safety measures, a Flytrex FAA-certified drone operator oversees each mission to ensure a seamless delivery. 

Grant says Flytrex’s goal is to eventually have restaurants build pads on-site where employees can load the drones themselves with meals.

Looking ahead, he plans to continue echoing Chick-fil-A’s mission to stay ahead of the curve. He says his goals are to “navigate the hiccups that happen so we can pivot quickly and continue to serve our guests and create a culture and environment everyone loves.” 

The Outstanding Operators Program is highlighting 20 innovative brands taking creative paths to success with all things off-premises. Winners receive a $1000 charitable donation to the organization of choice and will be recognized on-stage at the 2024 Food On Demand Conference. Register today!

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