Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kudos to Chick-Fil-A for 'Moo-ving' Traffic

Do you ever feel like you’re going to be sitting in a drive-through lane until the “cows come home?”

It’s ironic, given that the fundamental purpose of drive-through lanes, particularly at fast-food restaurants, is to provide expedient service.

Problems typically arise during peak hours, when the cars snaking around many restaurants often out-number the bodies standing in line at the inside counter. Unsurprisingly, walk-in service during those hours may prove faster than drive-through.

Such was the case at our local Chick-Fil-A, which was notorious for attracting long lines inside and out, particularly during lunch hour.

Dashing between appointments recently, I found myself sitting at an intersection a half-mile from the Chick-Fil-A and wondering where I could grab a fast sandwich. The clock on my dash registered 12:04, which I expected would mean long lines at Chick-Fil-A.

As I got closer to the restaurant, cars were exiting but there were only two cars visible in the drive-through lane and they appeared to be moving. Pulling into the lane, I saw a teenage employee speaking to the driver in front of me.

“Oh, great,” I instantly presumed the drive-through must be out-of-service.

Wrong, the young man walked to my window, greeted me with CFA’s typical employee enthusiasm, and asked if he could take my order. A second young man took the paper the order was written on and read it into a cell phone.

My car barely stopped moving as I circled the building and picked up my chicken-salad sandwich.

“Great service,” I observed to the cashier, and then asked if the drive-through system was out-of-order.

“No, we just have employees outside taking orders between noon and 1:00 so we can give our customers better, more personal service,” she explained.

And it was clearly working— as I exited the parking lot, the time on my dashboard clock was 12:06, which would be an impressive service record even when it wasn’t lunch hour.

The take-away message for other retailers, including those without drive-through lanes, is Chick-Fil-A’s willingness and ingenuity to do whatever it takes to provide customers with that “better, more personal service,” even when doing so may mean putting your technology investments on hold and standing in the hot sun to personally get the job done.

—Connie Gentry

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