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

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Plant-based menu items are infiltrating fast food – and meat-eaters are all over them

impossible whopper
  • As plant-based items infiltrate fast food, chains offer everything from Impossible Whoppers to McPlants.
  • But while only 15% of self-identified vegans or vegetarians have tried plant-based fast food, 40% of meat-eaters have.
  • If plant-based foods can rival the taste and cost of meat, a Beyond Meat spokesperson told Insider, “we think very few consumers wouldn’t opt for that.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fast-food giants might be the last you’d expect to cater to plant-based eaters. Their businesses are centered around the very antithesis of vegan food: animal-based meat and dairy, made fast and made cheap. But over the last few years, fast-food joints have been making a concerted effort to add meat-free, plant-based, and vegan options to their menus.

But the people actually opting for those menu items may surprise you.

Carl’s Jr. has the Beyond Famous Star burger made with Beyond Meat. Burger King offers its Impossible Whopper, made with the infamous “bleeding” Impossible Foods’ beef-like patty. Del Taco has the Beyond Avocado Taco, and now a host of other vegan and vegetarian options. Even cheap-beef juggernaut McDonald’s is in the plant-burger game with its recently released Beyond Meat-based, all-vegan McPlant burger, kicking off in the United Kingdom. And these are just to name a few.

Meat-eaters are, by a large lead, dabbling in plant-based fast food options. Nearly 40% of meat-eaters have tried a meat substitute at a fast-food chain, while only 15% of self-identified vegans or vegetarians have, according to new research from analyst firm Piplsay.

“Over the past few years, the fake-meat phenomenon has gone from being a highly speculative curiosity to an in-demand food item, available not just in grocery stores but also dished out over the counters of popular fast-food chains across the country,” says the research summary from Piplsay. “From burgers and sandwiches to tacos and pizzas, a wide range of meatless alternatives is available to customers today, many of whom are opting for them for health, environmental, or ethical reasons.”

Del Taco beyond taco

Meat-eating Americans are increasingly motivated to swap animal products for plant-based doppelgangers for a number of reasons, the top being perceived health benefits, followed by the environment.

Meeting the increasing demand for meat and dairy alternatives, and driving it, requires meeting meat-eaters where they are – like at the counters and drive-throughs of familiar fast-food restaurants. These chains know meat; they don’t know meat substitutes, which is why they often turn to the pure-play brands – basically, ones that focus on one specific niche, like plant-based items – that are eager to have fast-food companies as part of their channel. They’ve already done the legwork to establish a brand presence and become known as legitimate replacements that actually taste good, something critically important to the discerning meat-eater or flexitarian.

“If we can make plant-based meat taste just as delicious, be better for you and ultimately get the price to be below that of animal protein, we think very few consumers wouldn’t opt for that,” a Beyond Meat spokesperson told Insider. “Our mission is to make our products as accessible as possible and our QSR partners are a critical part of that strategy.”

Beyond Meat has been delivering on its promise of accessibility. The company, according to its market research partner SPINS, is the top-selling plant-based meat brand across the US in total food service and sells in more than 80 countries. Beyond Meat’s competitor, Impossible Foods, also has a major food-service presence, with its most notable fast-food partnership with Burger King.

GettyImages 1287311421
Patties of Beyond Meat Inc.’s plant-based burger Beyond Burger are cooked on a skillet on November 19, 2020 in Katwijk, Netherlands.

Eat Just, a top egg-replacement maker with its Just Egg product, is also continuing to partner with fast-food restaurants to meet what it says is a growing demand – especially by millennials and Gen Z, based on research from Mintel.

“Consumers are looking for plant-based options at fast-food operators, and [they’re] enjoying their experience once they try it,” Alexandra Dallago, a spokesperson for Eat Just, told Insider. Dallago noted that 70% of consumers say they liked their experience, according to more data from the aforementioned Piplsay survey.

“We are seeing that meat-eaters [and] flexitarians are interested in trying these options and [their] appeal goes far beyond meatless consumers,” Dallago said. “We’ll continue to see more innovation in plant-based offerings as demand grows and plant-based becomes more mainstream.”

Eat Just said, for example, for example, its “Everything Plant-Based Sandwich” is the top-selling hot menu item at popular nationwide chain Peet’s Coffee. It’s also the third across all product categories, including beverage.

“The sandwich is selling at three times what was initially forecasted, earning it a permanent menu placement,” Dallago said. “It also drives new incremental customers, typically younger, into Peet’s locations. High appeal with younger customers because it’s an exciting, fully plant-based offering.”

McDonald's PLT Canada
McDonald’s and Beyond Meat offered a plant-based burger in Canada.

Ricky Borja, a casino executive based in California, falls into the 15% of vegans or vegetarians who have tried plant-based options at mainstream fast food chains. He’s tried vegan items from Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and Del Taco, and sees why the plant-based offerings are appealing in large to meat-eaters.

“People that eat meat know that it’s not really good for you, so they see the option and think, ‘Oh, it’s not meat or an animal product, it must be healthier or better for you,'” Borja said. “Or they think about the environment, and are motivated to give a plant-based option a try.”

Borja also said he’s not surprised that vegans and vegetarians are in smaller numbers eating plant-based fast food from mainstream chains.

“Most vegans and vegetarians have already found their own means of eating, and found alternatives already, so they are not gravitating towards these places,” Borja said, adding that some vegans really don’t want to support corporations that still profit from animal exploitation and thus don’t align with their own values.

KFC Beyond Chicken
KFC Beyond Chicken

There’s also the issue of cross-contamination, as many staunch vegans or vegetarians don’t like the idea of their plant-based burger being potentially cooked on the same grill as meat – although many fast-food operators have said accommodation can be made to ensure no cross-contamination.

Despite the vegan population being up 300% since 2004, the group still only makes up 3% of the overall US population, with vegetarians making up 5%. However, there is more cohesive research needed to accurately measure changing food preferences and capture those who are “plant-based,” a term typically used to define someone who eats mostly plant-based food, but may periodically eat meat or dairy. It can also be used to identify someone who may not eat any animal products, but isn’t necessarily motivated by animal ethics (which may also drive other lifestyle choices) – a defining principle of veganism.

By far, the largest opportunity for plant-based food adoption currently lies in the hands, and mouths, of meat-eaters. It reasons that fast-food chains, and the brands that are keystone to their plant-based offerings, continue to forge a symbiotic relationship, even though what they each represent may seem at odds.

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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.

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Two New Zealand ‘gang associates’ were arrested after trying to smuggle a car full of KFC chicken, french fries, and 10 tubs of coleslaw during lockdown

FILE PHOTO: A Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) bucket of mixed fried and grilled chicken is seen in this picture illustration taken April 6, 2017.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) bucket of mixed fried and grilled chicken is seen in this picture illustration

  • New Zealand police arrested two men smuggling KFC chicken and $100,000 in cash into Auckland.
  • This is the second arrest involving illegal fast-food hauls amid the city’s strict COVID-19 lockdown.
  • As businesses reopened at midnight, the line at one Auckland McDonald’s overflowed around the corner.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two New Zealand men were arrested on Sunday after attempting to cross the Auckland border with a car “full” of Kentucky Fried Chicken, french fries, and 10 tubs of coleslaw, according to local police.

The police identified the pair as “gang associates” and found over $10,000 in cash and empty ounce bags alongside large amounts of fast food.

According to authorities, “the vehicle did a u-turn and sped off trying to evade police,” after they noticed the car driving down a gravel road near the border.

Auckland officials are enforcing strict travel restrictions amid a city-wide lockdown following a surge in COVID-19 cases. With restaurants closed, residents who break travel rules to purchase fast food outside the city risk fines up to $8,400 or six months of jail time.

This is the second set of charges this month involving illicit takeaway food. Last week, a 20-year-old man was charged for breaking health orders as he left Auckland in search of McDonald’s, which he documented on TikTok.

As businesses reopened Tuesday at midnight, 40 cars were waiting in line outside a West Auckland McDonald’s at 12:30 am, according to Stuff, New Zealand’s largest news site. By 1 am, eager customers clogged the road and wrapped around the corner.

Hell Pizza chief executive Ben Cumming​ told Stuff reporter Glenn McConnell that Auckland fast-food outlets are anticipating around double their normal demand as the city downgrades from Level 4 to Level 3 restrictions.

In a statement, New Zealand Police said they are “pleased with the actions of the majority of people adhering to the Alert Level restrictions, but are disappointed by the small number of people who deliberately flout the rules.”

Since the Level 4 lockdown was put in place, police say 86 people have been charged with a total of 90 offenses, the majority of which were failing to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

On Friday, fines for COVID-19 rule-breakers were raised by over $5000 as authorities expressed concern about the Delta variant spreading beyond Auckland and into other regions, Reuters reported.

“Our success has been really based on the fact that people by and large have been compliant,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference. “However, there has been the odd person that has broken the rules and put others at risk.”

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Subway says its menu refresh boosted sales to an 8-year high. It added new sandwiches, new bread options, and a parmesan vinaigrette.

Subway new ingredients turkey
Subway updated its menu in July.

  • Subway says its US sales hit an eight-year high after it revamped its menu in July.
  • The revamp included six new or returning sandwiches and two new bread options.
  • Some franchisees have said that Subway’s new ads and overhauled menu aren’t enough to fix the chain.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Subway says weekly sales hit an eight-year high after what its CEO called the brand’s biggest-ever menu refresh.

The sandwich chain updated its menu in July with 11 new and improved ingredients, six new or returning sandwiches, and four revamped sandwiches. It added two new bread options – artisan italian and hearty multigrain – and a parmesan vinaigrette to its menu.

Subway said Tuesday that its US restaurants had their highest average weekly sales in more than eight years on the week its new menu came out. August sales were the company’s highest for the month since 2013, it said. Sales were up more than 4% compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic started, it said.

At the top-performing 25% of its US restaurants, sales were on average a third higher in August 2021 compared to August 2019, it said.

“The journey to build a better Subway has begun, and the changes are having a positive impact on restaurant sales,” Subway CEO John Chidsey said in a press release.

But data suggests that even as sales have risen, the number of customers visiting Subway’s stores hasn’t changed much.

Subway store visits were up 0.7% in July and down 1.5% in August compared to 2019, according to Placer.ai, a firm that tracks foot traffic at retailers and restaurants. Sandwich rivals such as Jersey Mike’s, Jimmy John’s, and Firehouse Subs, on the other hand, had an uptick in August traffic compared to 2019, Placer.ai data shared with Insider showed.

Some franchisees blasted Subway’s menu revamp promotion

To promote the menu revamp, Subway had said it would give away 1 million six-inch Turkey Cali Fresh subs on July 13.

Insider’s Nancy Luna reported that some franchisees called the promotion a flop, and said that fewer people than expected showed up to claim a free sandwich.

“We had expectations that they were going to blow us out the door,” one operator told Insider. “Well, we just had the opposite problem. It was a giant letdown.”

Subway told Insider that the event “beat” expectations. “Overall, restaurants saw a significant lift in sales and traffic,” the spokesperson said.

Subway splashed out on advertising for the menu overhaul, including TV ads with sports legends such Charles Barkley, Serena Williams, and Megan Rapinoe. But some franchisees told Insider’s Luna that pricey celebrity ads and a revamped menu weren’t enough to fix the chain, which has reported an overall drop in sales since the death of cofounder Fred DeLuca in 2015.

Do you work for Subway or are you a franchisee? Contact Nancy Luna via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (714) 875-6218 using a nonwork phone, email at nluna@insider.com, or Twitter DM at @FastFoodMaven

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I tried Ghost Kitchens’ first US restaurant inside a Walmart, and I think it’s the perfect model for a fast-food world wracked by the labor shortage

Ghost Kitchen Brands
Restaurants inside Ghost Kitchen Brands work out of one kitchen.

  • Ghost Kitchens opened a restaurant inside a Walmart in Rochester, New York.
  • I tested it out, ordering food from the kiosks.
  • Ghost Kitchens don’t need as many workers as a standard fast-food restaurant.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Ghost Kitchens just opened its first Walmart location in the US in Rochester, New York, so I went to test it out.

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

The “revolutionary food court,” as the sign calls it, was located right by Walmart’s entrance, behind the stacks of carts.

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

Signs around the entrance advertised some of the brands sold inside, including Cinnabon and Yogen Fruz.

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

Inside, the restaurant was an open space with white walls, and not much else.

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

A TV on the wall cycles through ads for the brands served by Ghost Kitchens.

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

At the front of the restaurant, there’s a counter where workers come out to hand out orders. Customers can also choose to pay there.

Ghost Kitchens cash register
Ghost Kitchens just opened its first location inside a US Walmart.

The display case at the counter has Cinnabons, cookies, cheesecake, and other desserts.

Ghost Kitchens display case
Ghost Kitchens just opened its first location inside a US Walmart.

A Costa coffee station sits right behind the counter, with paper cups, carafes of coffee, and flavored syrups.

Ghost Kitchens behind the counter
Ghost Kitchens just opened its first location inside a US Walmart.

I could also just barely see back into the kitchen, where the General Manager told me there were five workers at the time I was there, about 7 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Ghost Kitchens behind the counter
Ghost Kitchens just opened its first location inside a US Walmart.

After scoping out the entire restaurant, it was finally time to order. I went to use one of the touch screen kiosks, which revert to ads when not in use.

Walmart Ghost Kitchen order screen
The first Ghost Kitchen inside a US Walmart just opened.

The screen showed all the brands you could order from, including Kraft, Taco Tea, Quizno’s and about 20 others.

Walmart Ghost Kitchen order screen
The first Ghost Kitchen inside a US Walmart just opened.

You can select any restaurant from the screen to see its expanded menu.

Walmart Ghost Kitchen order screen
The first Ghost Kitchen inside a US Walmart just opened.

I started by checking out the menu for Wings of New York, because my home of Western New York is the home of Buffalo wings and they’re a staple in the region.

Walmart Ghost Kitchen order screen
The first Ghost Kitchen inside a US Walmart just opened.

Most menu items take you to another screen for customizations, like sauces or sides. I was pleased to see Bleu Cheese as an option here, a must for wings.

Walmart Ghost Kitchen order screen
The first Ghost Kitchen inside a US Walmart just opened.

There was a huge variety of food across the menu, so I tried to sample a little bit of a lot of different menus to get a good sense of the Ghost Kitchens concept as a whole.

Ghost Kitchens kiosk menu
Ghost Kitchens just opened a Walmart location.

Some parts of the menu were straightforward adaptations of restaurants like Cinnabon, while I’ve never seen a Kraft restaurant before.

In the end I ordered wings, bao, pierogies, Kraft Mac and Cheese bites, and a Cinnabon for $58.

Ghost Kitchens kiosk order
Ghost Kitchens just opened a Walmart location.

As I went to checkout and pay, the kiosk tried to upsell me on other menu items. The technology didn’t seem as sophisticated as, say, a McDonald’s menu board at predicting what else I’d order, but I could definitely see that a possibility in the future.

Ghost Kitchens kiosk order
Ghost Kitchens just opened a Walmart location.

With the order done, I could pay right at the same screen.

Ghost Kitchens kiosk pay
Ghost Kitchens just opened a Walmart location.

Conveniently, there are a few ways to pay, including Apple Pay and standard credit cards.

Ghost Kitchens Walmart payment
Ghost Kitchens opened in Walmart.

I chose to pay with a credit card, and the large screen pointed me to the small pin pad next to it.

Ghost Kitchens Walmart payment
Ghost Kitchens opened in Walmart.

The process worked smoothly, with no need for workers to intervene or fix and mishaps that I sometimes see happening in fast food restaurants with kiosks like this.

Ghost Kitchens Walmart payment
Ghost Kitchens opened in Walmart.

Then, you have the option to add in your phone number to get a receipt by text. I wanted my receipt so I did it, but I didn’t love the idea of having my personal number displayed in huge text that could be read across the room by anyone.

Ghost Kitchens Walmart payment
Ghost Kitchens opened in Walmart.

Finally, the kiosk gives a short code associated with your order.

Ghost Kitchens Walmart payment
Ghost Kitchens opened in Walmart.

I also got a text when my food was ready. My order took longer than a typical fast-food wait, but I can see how it would be convenient if you were shopping in Walmart and picking up the order on your way out.

Ghost Kitchen food
Ghost Kitchens opened a Walmart location.

I got my order packed in a bag and I took it home, excited to try it.

Ghost Kitchen food
Ghost Kitchens opened a Walmart location.

Each item was individually packaged in similar cardboard boxes.

Ghost Kitchen food
Ghost Kitchens opened a Walmart location.

Upon opening the boxes, I was impressed by how everything smelled and looked.

Ghost Kitchens bao chicken wings pierogi
Ghost Kitchens just opened a Walmart location.

The bao, which came in two flavors, were one of the highlights, and I’d get them again.

Ghost Kitchens bao
Ghost Kitchens just opened a Walmart location.

They had a hearty amount filling.

Ghost Kitchens bao
Ghost Kitchens just opened a Walmart location.

I was most surprised by the wings, which were delicious and not too saucy with a dry rub.

Ghost Kitchens wings
Ghost Kitchens just opened a Walmart location.

They even came with a small tinfoil wrapper of celery, which I thought was a nice touch.

Ghost Kitchens chicken wings
Ghost Kitchens just opened a Walmart location.

The Mac-And-Cheese Bites were good, but I wish I’d gotten more of them and less of the topping.

Ghost Kitchen food
Ghost Kitchens opened a Walmart location.

The “Canadian style” pierogies were definitely an odd combination, with poutine-inspired toppings, but oddly enough they worked.

Ghost Kitchen food
Ghost Kitchens opened a Walmart location.

Overall, the food was better than I expected, but prices were definitely high for the fast-food world. I can imagine convenience being a deciding factor in customers stopping at this location if they’re already in Walmart or need to meet the tastes of several different people.

Ghost Kitchens receipt
My Ghost Kitchens receipt.

This is definitely a fortuitous time for Ghost Kitchens to be expanding as fast-food chains struggle to hire enough workers to stay open. Ghost Kitchens still require workers to prepare the food, but less labor goes towards interacting with customers, and a few employees can make the equivalent of several restaurants’ worth of food.

Walmart Ghost Kitchen order screen
The first Ghost Kitchen inside a US Walmart just opened.

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

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Starbucks baristas want you to stop asking them to blend food into your drinks

Starbucks in Leeds, UK
Former Starbucks baristas say customers have asked them to blend cake, cake pops, Danish pastries, cookies, brownies, and bananas into drinks – usually Frappuccinos.

  • Starbucks baristas are allowed to blend fruit into drinks, but not other food items.
  • Still, baristas say some customers request that cake, pastries, or egg bites be blended into drinks.
  • One said she’d even asked been asked to add protein shakes to drinks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Should you ask your Starbucks barista to blend a cake pop, brownie, or cookie into your drink, chances are they’ll say no.

It’s against company policy for baristas to blend food into Starbucks drinks like Frappuccinos. But that hasn’t stopped customers from trying.

“I’ve had people asked for some food items blended,” Alexis Rivera, a former Starbucks shift manager in New Jersey, told Insider. “We don’t do that.”

A Starbucks representative said baristas “may handcraft blended beverages using ingredients offered at Starbucks stores including sauces, syrups, espresso, coffee and tea, Evolution Fresh juices, and bananas and blueberries.”

“Food items in store (including baked goods and egg bites) are not approved additions to blended beverages at Starbucks,” the representative added.

Numerous former baristas, however, told Insider they had gotten requests – which they said they rejected – for food to be blended into drinks. This included cake, cake pops, Danish pastries, cookies, and brownies.

Rivera said some customers brought in their own food or protein shakes and asked for them to be blended.

The baristas said this happened only with in-store customers because adding food to drinks wasn’t listed as a modification on the Starbucks app.

Speaking about in-store orders, Rivera said “technically if you’re not able to charge for it in the drink, it’s not something that can be made.”

But she said some customers would seek a workaround: “If you’re requesting those items too, you’re buying them separately, like a Frappuccino, but you’re asking, ‘Hey can you blend them for me?’ Some places do – some places don’t.”

“Making items like that during rushes where you don’t even have enough people to go to the back and clean them properly, that’s most likely why they’re declined,” she added.

Different baristas Insider spoke with had different attitudes. “It’s not worth risking my job to add a brownie to a blender,” a current barista in Florida said.

Rivera said one customer had even asked her colleague to blend egg bites into a drink, though the customer ultimately described it as a joke.

Rivera said her colleague didn’t follow through with the request – but a former barista in Indiana, who asked for anonymity because she still visited the store as a customer, said she had actually blended egg bites into a Frappuccino.

“It was just gross to hand out,” she said.

The Indiana barista said she had also blended a melted brownie into a frappuccino, too. She said her manager had told her that though she technically wasn’t supposed to blend food into drinks, she could tell the customer they could make it as a one-off.

A former barista in British Columbia, who asked to stay anonymous because she might return to work at the chain, said customers often asked for their Refreshers, which usually contained liquid, ice, and fruit pieces, to be blended.

“A lot of the time we’d be like, ‘We can do it, but we’d rather not put the fruit in it because the fruit gets stuck and it jams the blender,'” she said.

“They’re not really designed for that kind of thing,” she added, saying the staff at her store once broke a blender blending dried fruit into a drink.

Asking for fruit blended into their drinks is just another way customers are making their drinks orders more complex. Starbucks baristas told Insider they’re sick of making TikTok-inspired drinks, too, sometimes with “mile-long stickers” listing order customizations.

Do you work at Starbucks? Got a story to share? Email this reporter at gdean@insider.com. Always use a non-work email.

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

  • 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.

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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.

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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.”

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