While restaurant dining room doors have begun to open around the state, one high-profile name is sticking to the back-burner: Chick-fil-A.
The Atlanta-based chicken chain on March 15 closed dining room seating at all of its more than 2,300 stores nationwide, becoming one of the first major franchises to cling onto the changing coronavirus guidelines. A month later, President Donald Trump picked CEO and chairman Dan Cathy to be part of his administration’s “Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups,” which are to serve as a consultancy as federal and state governments relaunch industries in the wake of the pandemic.
Gov. Brian Kemp allowed restaurants to reopen dine-in service to the public on April 27, and the state’s shelter-in-place order expired at midnight May 1 for all but “medically fragile” Georgians. Multiple independents restaurants have reopened, while a number of large chains — including Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Waffle House and Cracker Barrel — have laid out their plans.
Chick-fil-A,, which reported $10.46 billion in sales in 2018, said on May 1 that some of its restaurants may open for carry-out “in the coming weeks” but that dining room seating and playgrounds will remain closed indefinitely.
The chain, which had launched a new dine-in mobile technology in October of 2019, has now shifted to more low-tech changes inside the shops: plexiglass partitions and hand sanitizer stations available for patron use; contactless ordering and new signage directing social distancing practice while people wait in line.
Here’s a look at Chick-fil-A’s other moves during the Covid-19 pandemic:
Partnerships and Meals at Home
With their dining rooms closed, Chick-fil-A, like many restaurants, moved more heavily into delivery. More than half of its eateries nationwide are linked with national delivery partners DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub. The company enhanced its partnership with Uber Eats for a chunk of April, waiving its typical delivery fee on orders of $10 or more.
Chick-fil-A also started offering meal kits of a chicken parmesan dish at select locations today. The ready-to-heat meals start at $14.99, and are available at the drive-thru, via the chain’s app or through its delivery partners. It’s among the five meal kit recipes that were tested in Atlanta in 2018.
Chick-fil-A started selling its signature sauces at Publix, Target, Walmart and Winn-Dixie stores in Florida and added family meal bundles at more than 800 restaurants.
Drive-thru Changes and Safety Protocols
Chick-fil-A drive-thrus have stayed open, but with notable differences from usual. That includes the addition of outdoor hand-washing stations to more easily let staff members working outside wash their hands at least every 30 minutes.
The company’s “face-to-face” drive-thru experience continues, but with added attempts to meet social-distancing guidelines, such as incorporating limited-contact ordering, payment and meal-delivery procedures. Employees who handle transactions must wear gloves and wash their hands every time they interact with cash.
Chick-fil-A said it made thermometers available so employees can check their temperature before entering the restaurant. To help maintain six-feet separation whenever possible, restaurants have been equipped with visual diagrams with guidelines.
Delivery, curbside delivery and carry-out orders are also served in tamper-evident packaging to ensure they have not been opened.
Ownership and Philanthropy
Chick-fil-A, which has three types of operating models (franchise-owned, licensed and company-owned, which is most rare), said it offered independent restaurant owner operators “financial support” to help offset the hardships of the crisis — though details of that support are unclear.
The chain, however, provided some specifics on a $10.8 million fund it created to distribute support for local communities through its network of 1,800 independent owner-operators. The intent of the fund is to “have an immediate impact on the needs of local communities, including food donations or items to first responders, health care workers, Chick-fil-A team members and their families,” the company said on its website.
That funding led to the donation of more than 5,000 meals to Atlanta school systems, health care workers and others on the front lines; as well as 7,715 cases of fresh produce to Feeding America.
Chick-fil-A said it will also continue its annual scholarship program, pledging to invest $17 million in scholarships to 6,700 employees this year. Before the pandemic, Chick-fil-A, which has struggled since 2012 to shake the image that it endorses homophobia, announced it would change its overall philanthropic approach starting in 2020.