Foodservice Equipment Reports

City Sites Beckon Chick-fil-A

In what it calls an “experimental” move, Chick-fil-A is heading for the big city. As previously reported in Fortnightly, three Chicagoland locations are already under construction. Now the suburban Atlanta chain, which has thrived in mall locations, plans to expand its urban presence in at least two more cities. Executives at the privately held company told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that stores on city blocks will help it learn how to set up its counters, kitchens and staff to handle large numbers of walk-in customers. The chain could hone its delivery service as well, now offered at about 5% of its restaurants.

Most of Chick-fil-A's growth since the 1980s has been at free-standing stores; the chain has fewer than two dozen "in-line" stores on city blocks. In addition to Chicago, stores also are planned for Washington, D.C.  and Los Angeles. "It's going to be growing in importance," said Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s senior vice president of marketing. "It's still a learning frontier for us. We need to learn. The markets that we want to grow in, whether Chicago or D.C. or Southern California, we need to know how to do this."

Earlier this month, store No. 1,500 opened in downtown Los Angeles, adjacent to the University of Southern California. The company plans to open 78 new restaurants this year, up from an average of about 70. Fewer than 10 annual openings will be city-block locations, Robinson said. So far, no urban stores are planned in the chain’s hometown.

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