Fast food isn’t as fast anymore, but it’s more popular than ever

McDonald's drive thru
Drive-thru times have gotten slower since 2020.

  • Drive-thru wait times are at their highest in recent history, according to a new study.
  • Waits have gotten consistently longer each year, but sales are also up.
  • Long waits don’t seem to deter customers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fast food sales continue to grow, but new data shows it isn’t quite as fast as it once was.

Total wait time in drive-thrus increased nearly 30 seconds since 2020 to 382.39 seconds, or just over six minutes, according to the SeeLevel HX Annual Drive-Thru Study. The numbers show a trend of longer waits over time, based on a study of 1,492 visits to 10 prominent brands.

Waits have steadily increased over the last few years, from 234 seconds in 2018, to 327 seconds in 2019 and 356.8 in 2020, resulting in this year’s relatively long waits.

One possible explanation for growing waits is the labor shortage crushing the entire retail industry. Business owners say they’re unable to find staff and in some cases even cite a lack of desire to work, while workers say they can demand better pay and benefits in the tight labor market. As a result, fast-food chains are having to adjust hours or only operate drive-thrus as they face a lack of staff to keep restaurants running. One Alabama Chick-fil-A that had to close its dining room over a lack of workers called it a “hiring crisis.”

Drive-thrus have been key to the survival of fast-food chains throughout the pandemic of the last year and a half. Fast food and fast-casual brands across the country have optimized drive-thrus over the last year, many of them making improvements pioneered by Chick-fil-A. Drive-thru orders have grown across the fast-food industry since the pandemic closed many dining rooms.

Longer wait times don’t tell the whole story, though. Chick-fil-A had the longest wait times in another drive-thru study published by QSR, but it also topped both studies in order accuracy and measures of customer satisfaction. Rather than showing a failing in Chick-fil-A’s business, long waits seem to indicate that Chick-fil-A is hugely successful, simply drawing in more customers than competitors. Lines are so long that exiting CEO Dan Cathy estimates that up to 30% of customers decide to off. Chick-fil-A locations surveyed by QSR had lines twice as long as the next highest competitors.

Lines are long because fast-food sales are growing industry-wide. McDonald’s sales surpassed 2019 levels, and Taco Bell grew throughout the pandemic, boosting service by 30 million additional cars in the third quarter of 2020 over the previous year. As fast-food continues to thrive, longer lines might be the new norm as chains are serving more customers.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The fast food industry is in crisis, and it’s only getting worse

wendy's
  • The fast-food industry is flailing without enough workers.
  • Over 60% of fast food owners said that they’d closed part of their dining rooms in August.
  • Operators said supply chain disruptions and low margins were making things worse.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fast food is facing a major reckoning as understaffed stores, supply chain problems, and the Delta variant of COVID-19 are hitting the industry at the same time, possibly ruining plans of recovery after a notoriously difficult 2020.

A new survey from the National Restaurant Association, reported by Restaurant Business Online, shows just how bad things have gotten. Restaurant operators overwhelmingly said that finding staff was the number one challenge they face, with 75% agreeing. Of owners surveyed, 78% said that didn’t have enough workers to handle business, which led to many closing dining rooms or seating areas to lower the number of customers they could serve.

Nearly half of operators said that they reduced dining capacities voluntarily. According to the survey, 61% of fast-food restaurants, and 81% of full-service restaurants said that they decided to shut parts of dining rooms in August because they didn’t have the workers to serve those areas.

Business owners say they’re unable to find staff and in some cases even cite a lack of desire to work, while workers say they can demand better pay and benefits in the tight labor market. This mismatch has led to restaurants decreasing hours and closing dining rooms.

Three Chick-fil-A restaurants in Alabama had to close their dining rooms over lack of staff, though they continued to make food for delivery.

“We, along with many businesses, are in the middle of a hiring crisis,” the Calera, Alabama Chick-fil-A restaurant said in a Facebook post. A McDonald’s location in North Carolina made a similar move, closing the dining room while keeping the drive-thru running.

Two more Chick-fil-A locations in northern Alabama have started closing early because of “extremely short staffing,” Grace Dean reported for Insider. Two campus Starbucks locations at the University of Alabama temporarily closed dining rooms due to “limited staff and supply chain challenges,” The Crimson White reported.

Staffing issues are a problem across the country. In an August earnings call, Wendy’s president and CEO told investors that some dining rooms were closing early and operating drive-thru only because of a lack of workers.

For restaurants that are open, they’re operating with fewer workers than before. Full-service restaurants are working with 6.2 fewer employees in back of house and 2.8 fewer in front of house than they did in 2019 on average, according to a report from Black Box Workforce Intelligence. Cooks and line cooks, managers, and bartenders especially are in demand, Restaurant Dive reported.

The limited restaurant staff is also serving different menus than in past years. Of operators in the survey, 95% said that they’d faced disruptions or problems reordering supplies, and 75% used that as a chance to update menus based on availability.

Even as sales are up over 2019 levels in some cases, profits aren’t. Prices of ingredients and labor have increased, and 65% of operators said that their profit margins shrunk in the previous three months.

“Our nation’s restaurant recovery is officially moving in reverse,” executive vice president of the association, Sean Kennedy, said in a statement.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I ordered food from 5 different brands in a stark white room inside a suburban Walmart and I’m convinced it’s probably the future of fast food

Walmart Ghost Kitchen signs
The first US Ghost Kitchen in a Walmart just opened.

  • I visited the first Ghost Kitchens restaurant in a New York Walmart.
  • Ghost kitchen companies have exploded over the last year and a half as delivery grew.
  • Virtual restaurants cut down on labor and real estate costs, making them appealing to owners.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As part of my job as a retail reporter, I eat a lot of fast food. I even do a lot of in-app ordering and contactless pickups, but nothing prepared me for eating in Ghost Kitchens’ first Walmart location in Rochester, New York.

The restaurant is basically a large, open space with white walls and little else. A TV cycled through ads for the brands served by Ghost Kitchens, and acted as the focal point simply because there was nothing else, besides a trash can and larger ads on the windows. It was unlike any other restaurant I’d ever been in. In fact, it reminded me of a doctor’s office waiting room more than anything else I could think of – though it didn’t have seating.

Ghost Kitchens’ concept strips a fast food business down to only the most basic elements. Orders are made through large touch screens located throughout the room, requiring no direct interaction between customers and workers. Several dozen brands’ worth of menus come out of the same kitchen, which had five workers at the time of my visit. The lack of tables, napkins, condiments, and other things customary at the average McDonald’s make it apparent that customers are not meant to linger or eat their food there. That’s another way to cut down on costs – workers don’t need to dedicate time to cleaning tables, mopping floors, or restocking ketchup.

Walmart Ghost Kitchen
The first US Ghost Kitchen in a Walmart just opened.

Ghost kitchens, also known as cloud kitchens or virtual concepts, are only becoming more relevant as several big players compete in the growing sector. Reef Technology, which just signed an agreement to open up 700 ghost kitchens with Wendy’s, builds mobile kitchens in parking lots and garages to make food for delivery with fast food partners. It’s the largest of these operations in North America, with 5,000 locations.

CloudKitchens, from Uber founder Travis Kalanick, has deals with some well-known brands, including Chick-fil-A, Wingstop, and Noodles and Company. Other competitors, like Kitchen United, All Day Kitchens, and Ghost Kitchen brand, which I visited, are also growing.

Ghost kitchens exploded during the early days of COVID-19, when brands scrambled to set up delivery infrastructure and recoup some of the sales lost by dining room closures. Now, more than a year into a still-raging pandemic, they make sense for a different reason: they don’t require as many workers.

Restaurants across the country, from full service to fast food, are having trouble hiring and retaining workers to keep business going. Some Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin’, and other chain locations have tested out short-term solutions like cutting hours, closing dining rooms, or cutting off service of certain meals. A survey of restaurant operators from the National Restaurant Association found that 78% said that they don’t have enough workers to handle business, and 75% said their biggest problem was finding staff.

Market research firm Euromonitor predicts that the ghost kitchen segment could be a $1 trillion industry by 2030.

“Labor savings are no doubt a big benefit driving the growth of this segment,” senior analyst at Pitchbook Alex Frederick told Restaurant Dive. But, “brick-and-mortar restaurants have evolved to maximize dine-in floor space and minimize kitchen space in an effort to maximize profits. Most restaurants aren’t optimized for delivery,” he said.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Wealthy teens are obsessed with Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and Chipotle

chick fil a pandemic
People walk past Chick-fil-A in New York City.

  • Chick-fil-A ranked as rich American teens’ favorite restaurant, according to a recent survey.
  • Starbucks and Chipotle trailed behind in the second and third spots.
  • The research surveyed 10,000 teens in 44 states.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chick-fil-A is the restaurant of choice among wealthy American teens, followed by Starbucks and Chipotle, according to a recent survey by Piper Sandler.

Piper Sandler surveyed 10,000 teens in 44 states. The survey also found that 85% of teens planned on dining in at a restaurant in the fall of 2021.

Chick-fil-A’s sandwich starred in the chicken sandwich wars between fast-food giants like McDonald’s and Popeyes, going to battle with their original chicken chicken sandwich recipe that hasn’t changed much since the 1960s.

Though the chain is known for its chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches, it has also been dogged by controversy and criticized by LGBTQ activists for its past support of charities with anti-LGBTQ positions.

Chipotle was the second-most popular restaurant among teens, with its popularity climbing since the spring of 2020. Starbucks ranked in third place, with its popularity remaining stagnant compared to its peaks in 2013 and 2008.

Chick-fil-A did not immediately respond to request for comment about the survey results.

Chick-fil-A has very strong brand loyalists,” former McDonald’s chef Mike Haracz told Insider’s Erin McDowell. “There are a certain number of consumers who are not going to go to McDonald’s for a chicken sandwich because they go to Chick-fil-A.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

2 Chick-fil-A locations in LA stopped serving breakfast because they don’t have enough workers

Los Angeles Chick-fil-A no breakfast sign
Two Chick-fil-A locations have stopped serving breakfast.

  • Two LA Chick-fil-A locations put up signs saying that they were no longer serving breakfast.
  • A manager at one of the restaurants said that they are trying to hire to fill gaps in staffing.
  • Fast-food restaurants have simplified menus throughout the pandemic to speed up service.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two Chick-fil-A restaurants in Los Angeles have stopped serving breakfast because of a lack of workers and “supply chain challenges,” according to signs posted outside the locations.

“We’re adjusting hours because of the labor shortage,” Joqueeta Holmes, manager of the Sunset Boulevard location, told Insider. Hours were shortened from 7 a.m. to midnight to 10 a.m. to 10 p.m, beginning September 6.

“We’re hiring weekly and hold interviews every week to help fill the gaps in back and front of house,” Holmes said, adding that they offer a referral bonus to current workers who refer new employees. The location is recruiting younger workers to keep the restaurant working, too. “We are definitely hiring high school workers more than we have in the past, and being more flexible scheduling around school,” Holmes said.

A representative for Chick-fil-A did not respond to a request for comment.

Chick-fil-A might be leaving money on the table by suspending breakfast service. In 2018 and 2020, breakfast hash browns made the list of top ten most ordered items. Breakfast also tends to be more profitable for businesses because of the lower cost of ingredients like eggs and bacon.

“Breakfast is higher margin,” than other meals, Kalinowski Equity Research founder and CEO Mark Kalinowski told Insider. Another Chick-fil-A in Florida made a similar move earlier this summer, limiting menus to just lunch and dinner.

The problem isn’t unique to Chick-fil-A or Los Angeles. Fast-food locations around the country are temporarily closing dining rooms or cutting hours without enough staff to keep them open.

Two more Chick-fil-A locations in northern Alabama have started closing early because of “extremely short staffing,” Grace Dean reported for Insider.

“We, along with many businesses, are in the middle of a hiring crisis,” the Calera, Alabama Chick-fil-A restaurant said in a Facebook post. A McDonald’s location in North Carolina made a similar move, closing the dining room while keeping the drive-thru running.

Two campus Starbucks locations at the University of Alabama temporarily closed dining rooms due to “limited staff and supply chain challenges,” The Crimson White reported.

Three more Chick-fil-A restaurants in Alabama had to close their dining rooms over lack of staff, though they continued to make food for delivery.

A Dunkin’ location in Colorado temporarily closed operations completely after it was down to only three workers, Zahra Tayeb reported for Insider, and at least two Dunkin’ locations in Rochester, New York have also shortened hours.

The Instagram accounts of both Los Angeles Chick-fil-As read “No breakfast until further notice” in their bios. Simplifying menus was a common tactic among fast-food restaurants over the last year and a half to reduce wait times and work with smaller staffs. McDonald’s stopped selling all-day breakfast in March 2020, and cut down the menu to just best-selling items, but eliminating a meal from menus completely is still unusual in the fast-food world.

Other franchisees are taking similar measures to attract younger workers. A McDonald’s in Medford, Oregon, has a banner out front advertising that it is hiring 14- and 15-year-old workers.

“There are always staffing issues, but this is unheard of,” the restaurant operator, Heather Coleman, told Insider. She said the situation is unique in her family’s 40-year history operating McDonald’s franchises. 14 and 15-year-olds can legally work in fast-food restaurants, though there are strict limits from the Department of Labor on exactly what tasks they can do.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Expanded Coverage Module: what-is-the-labor-shortage-and-how-long-will-it-last

Read the original article on Business Insider

Chick-Fil-A removed from plans for an upcoming Kansas City airport wing after opposition from LGBTQ commission

chick fil a pandemic
People walk past Chick-fil-A in New York City.

  • Chick-Fil-A was cut from a list of restaurants proposed for Kansas City’s planned airport terminal.
  • The news comes after the city’s LGBTQ commission urged the city council to act.
  • Chick-Fil-A has previously donated to charities known for opposing LGBTQ rights.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Plans to open a Chick-Fil-A store at an upcoming wing of Kansas City International Airport have been canned, following opposition from the city’s official LGBTQ commission, local news sites KSHB and KCUR first reported.

The city’s LGBTQ commission sent a letter to Kansas City Council on on Monday, urging officials not to open a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in the new airport wing. It cited the company’s links to groups known for opposing LGBTQ rights.

Vantage Airport Group, the company recommended by the city’s aviation authority to run services at the upcoming terminal, scrubbed Chick-Fil-A from its list of proposed restaurants “to promote an inclusive environment,” a spokesperson for Vantage told Fox News.

“We heard and respect the strong community reaction to the proposed Chick-Fil-A participation in the program. We have collectively made the decision to remove this brand from our concessions plan for the new terminal at KCI. Vantage strives to promote an inclusive environment at all our airports,” the group told Fox News.

Insider contacted both Vantage and Chick-Fil-A for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Chick-Fil-A has come under attack over its donations in the past. As Insider’s Kate Taylor previously reported, prior to 2012 Chick-fil-A made significant donations to socially conservative and Christian organizations known for opposing LGBTQ rights through its WinShape Foundation.

In 2012, facing backlash after now-CEO Dan Cathy said that he was against same-sex marriage, the company said it would stop most of these donations.

But in the years that followed, it continued to face pressure from activists over other donations, including to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Both organizations have been criticized for their historical opposition to same-sex marriage.

In November 2019, Chick-Fil-A said it would cut donations to these charities too.

In July, its CEO, Cathy, came under fresh scrutiny over personal donations to the National Christian Charitable Foundation (NCF). The Daily Beast reported that the NCF was bankrolling organizations fighting against the Equality Act – legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

At the time, Insider’s Kate Taylor reported that the company itself had not donated to the NCF in more than a decade. Chick-Fil-A declined to comment on the report around Cathy, however.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Chick-fil-A’s CEO reveals plans for more international expansion, including into Asia

Chick-fil-A
  • Chick-fil-A’s CEO said international expansion is on the horizon.
  • CEO Dan Cathy said he’s specifically excited about growing in Asia.
  • Chick-fil-A has locations in the US and Canada.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chick-fil-A has plans for more international expansion, according to outgoing CEO Dan Cathy.

In an interview with The Atlanta Business Chronicle, Cathy explained his hopes to continue growing the chain outside the US after he steps down as CEO. Chick-fil-A is “really really good at taking care of that very, very demanding customer. And so we take that kind of industry, and we export to Asia, Europe, South America,” he told the publication.

“If we can be the best of the best in the US market, then Katy bar the door as to what’s going to happen when we get into Asia. I am so excited about that,” Cathy said.

In 2019, Chick-fil-A went from only operating US locations to having restaurants in the US, the UK, and Canada. The chain has previously said that there are plans to open at least 15 locations in the Toronto area.

International expansion hasn’t always gone smoothly for Chick-fil-A.

“This location will help us understand more about consumer interest in our brand and signature menu items,” a spokesperson told Insider in 2019 about the chain’s first UK location. Before it opened, Chick-fil-A was experimenting in the UK market with pop-up shops, including a year-long pop-up. “We know that the UK, and Scotland specifically, is one of the most attractive and high-priority locations for Chick-fil-A,” Rich Matherne, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of international expansion, told Insider at the time.

In 2020, the chain’s final UK locations closed amid protests over its history of donating to anti-LGBTQ political causes. Chick-fil-A no longer donates to any political causes, unlike many of its competiors.

The family-owned chain just announced Andrew Cathy, grandson of founder Truett Cathy, as the next CEO to begin in November. Andrew’s resume indicates that international expansion could be a priority for Chick-fil-A. He has led international strategy since 2016.

While it chases international success, Chick-fil-A is in a comfortable position as America’s favorite brand, with consistently busy drive-thrus and some of the highest store sales in the business.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Chick-fil-A CEO says 30% of people drive away because the chain’s drive-thru lines are so long

Chick-fil-A drive-thru review
  • Chick-fil-A CEO said that a third of customers drive away from the drive-thru because of long lines.
  • Putting another restaurant a few miles away doesn’t reduce demand, he said.
  • Chick-fil-A uses technology to keep drive-thrus moving efficiently.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chick-fil-A is one of the biggest players in the fast-food drive-thru game, but some of the success might actually be driving customers away.

“We estimate about 30% of the people are driving off, driving away, because the lines are so long,” exiting CEO Dan Cathy told the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

The data shows that Chick-fil-A does have longer drive-thru lines than its competitors. The chicken chain had the longest wait time out of the 10 quick-service chains tested at 541 seconds, or about nine minutes, in the 2021 QSR drive-thru study. But long waits don’t tell the whole story, because Chick-fil-A also came out on top for customer service and order accuracy.

Through a spokesperson, Chick-fil-A declined to comment.

Drive-thru waits have gotten longer over time. In 2019, the average speed was 322.98 seconds, just over five minutes, and in 2020 the wait was 488.8 seconds, about eight minutes. Waits have nearly doubled since 2019, but customers don’t seem to care. The chain was the only business to get a 100% accuracy rating in the same survey, and also got the top spot for customer service.

The long waits aren’t surprising: Chick-fil-A is really popular. According to the survey, Chick-fil-A locations had an average of four cars waiting in line at any given time, well above the average of 2.2 cars at McDonald’s, the next highest. These wait times are a symptom of Chick-fil-A’s massive success; the average Chick-fil-A store does over $4.5 million in annual sales, compared to the average McDonald’s store with $2.9 million.

Chick-fil-A does have strategies to make drive-thrus faster and more efficient, like installing double drive-thru lanes and having workers take customers’ orders on tablets at their cars before they reach windows to reduce bottlenecks. Even with these measures, which are being adopted by competing chains, it’s not unusual for the drive-thru line to extend out onto the street or block entrances to other businesses, and at times require police help directing traffic.

One method to mitigate long lines is to open another Chick-fil-A location a mile or two away from a busy restaurant. “We found that doesn’t solve the problem. It is a huge well, which makes us realize how much growth potential we still have here in the US,” Dan Cathy said.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Chick-fil-A names the founder’s grandson as new CEO, keeping the chain family-run for a third generation

Andrew Cathy
Andrew Cathy is taking over as Chick-fil-A CEO.

  • Chick-fil-A just announced Andrew Cathy will begin as CEO on November 1.
  • Cathy will be the chain’s third CEO, succeeding his father and grandfather.
  • Chick-fil-A prioritizes keeping the business in the family.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Andrew Cathy, grandson of Chick-fil-A’s founder and first CEO S. Truett Cathy, will take over as CEO in November, the chain announced Thursday.

Andrew Cathy, age 43, will take over the role from his father Dan Cathy, who became CEO in 2013. Andrew became an executive in 2015, first as chief people officer and then head of operations. He later took over international strategy.

Dan told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that Chick-fil-A is able to make this transition right now from a position of strength.

“One of the things we learned is that you don’t want to make transitions under crisis. You don’t want to do it when the wheels are falling apart. You don’t want to do it when the leader has long since worn out their welcome and everybody’s kind of waiting on them to retire or to leave,” he said. “You want to hand that baton off when things are in their best shape ever.”

The Cathy’s have run Chick-fil-A from its beginning in the 1960s, and are the 21st richest family in the US, worth $14.2 billion according to Insider’s reporting. Keeping the business in the family has been important to the Cathy’s. In 2000, Andrew’s father Dan Cathy signed a covenant with his father agreeing to keep the company private and never open on Sundays. He also promised to continue Chick-fil-A’s philanthropic work and to remain committed to his Christian faith.

There are no signs any of this is likely to change under Andrew, who is following in the family tradition. Dan told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that he’s been studying up on family businesses.

“Family businesses are really the bedrock of our economy… The bulk of the economy is based on families and succession in families,” he said. “And why is it that the wheels fall off the wagon? It helped me understand that we can grow a business, but if we don’t grow the family, and the way that family interacts with the business, we could likely have it come apart like all these other businesses have suffered. And it’s a tragic thing when businesses fail.”

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Chick-fil-A has some of the longest wait times at its drive-thru, but it doesn’t seem to be deterring customers

chick fil a drive thru
Chick-fil-A’s long wait times don’t deter customers.

  • Chick-fil-A’s average wait time topped nine minutes in QSR’s annual drive-thru study.
  • The chain also got top marks for accuracy and customer service.
  • Drive-thrus have become more important than ever in fast food.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chick-fil-A stood out in nearly every category in the 2021 QSR drive-thru study. The chicken chain had the longest wait time out of the 10 quick-service chains tested at 541 seconds, or about nine minutes, but it also beat out its competitors in the accuracy and customer service categories.

Chick-fil-A’s drive-thru wait times are getting longer. In 2019, the average speed was 322.98 seconds, just over five minutes, and in 2020 the wait was 488.8 seconds, about eight minutes. Waits have nearly doubled since 2019, but customers don’t seem to care. The chain was the only business to get a 100% accuracy rating in the same survey, and also got the top spot for customer service.

Chick-fil-A declined to comment on this study or drive-thru wait times.

Long waits at Chick-fil-A are unsurprising. According to the survey, Chick-fil-A locations had an average of four cars waiting in line at any given time, well above the average of 2.2 cars at McDonald’s, the next highest. These wait times are a symptom of Chick-fil-A’s massive success; the average Chick-fil-A store does over $4.5 million in annual sales, compared to the average McDonald’s store with $2.9 million.

The chain also takes measures to make drive-thrus efficient and running smoothly. Chick-fil-A has installed double drive-thru lanes at some locations, with plans to continue adding more. It also has workers take customers’ orders on tablets at their cars before they reach windows, dividing the drive-thru into zones instead of set locations, which reduces bottlenecks.

Drive-thrus have been key to the survival of fast-food chains throughout the pandemic of the last year and a half. Fast food and fast-casual brands across the country have optimized drive-thrus over the last year, many of them making improvements pioneered by Chick-fil-A. Drive-thru orders have grown across the fast-food industry since the pandemic closed many dining rooms.

With consumers eating more fast food than ever, speed is no longer the defining metric of a drive-thru’s success, and Chick-fil-A’s continued strength proves it.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider