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Business Lessons from Chick-fil-A

I cannot express enough my fascination and admiration for the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. And I think there are things that all businesses can learn from it.

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Jason Stahl has 26 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 14 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

Okay, so I wrote about food last month to offer some insight into how you might be able to gain efficiencies in your shop, and I’m going to do it again this month.

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I am continually impressed by how Chick-fil-A runs its business. I won’t even talk about how they have the most delicious chicken sandwich on the planet. I’m talking about everything from properly trained employees who have bought into Chick-fil-A’s culture (“My pleasure!”) to how the drive-thru operates. 

I cannot express enough my fascination and admiration for the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. I don’t know if they do this at your store, but at the store near me in Fairlawn, Ohio, they have two attendants standing outside wearing headsets. You pull in and within seconds, one of the attendants comes to your window, greets you and takes your order. Then, if you’re paying with a credit card, they process the payment right there. If paying cash, you pull up and pay a third attendant. This is all before you get to the window where you receive your food. There is also a fourth person, a food runner, who grabs and delivers orders to people in the second drive-thru lane. This person is living dangerously; they have to dodge cars as they go back and forth across the inside lane. And if they’re at the window waiting for food when you pull up, they are scant inches from your sideview mirror. 

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So, in the interest of customer service and efficiency, this Chick-fil-A store dedicates a full four persons outside for the drive-thru, no matter the weather. Perhaps the most amazing thing to me is that their next-door neighbor, Wendy’s, the employees of which have a ringside seat to the Chick-fil-A drive-thru extravaganza, have done nothing to respond to their competitor’s clear advantage. Admittedly, Wendy’s drive-thru operates pretty efficiently too, but still, the impression is that Chick-fil-A is kicking their butt. Who knows, the Chick-fil-A drive-thru method may be a waste of resources. Perhaps it isn’t any more efficient than Wendy’s. But as a customer, you can’t help but feel impressed when a battalion of headset-wearing “My pleasure!” greeters descends upon you. 

Are you within throwing distance of your competitor? Do you watch what they’re doing? Do you know what they’re doing better than you? Do you know what you’re doing better than them? Can you learn from them or perhaps copy and improve upon some of their tactics? Ask yourself these questions in your next company meeting.

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