Chick-fil-A opening first-of-its-kind restaurant in New York City as company tests new concepts

A Chick-fil-A employee places sandwiches on a heated rack in New York City.
A Chick-fil-A employee places sandwiches on a heated rack in New York City. | Screenshot:

The popular fast-food brand Chick-fil-A is set to open a first-of-its-kind restaurant in New York City next week, one of two innovative test concepts the company is testing. 

In the new 400-square-foot “grab-n-go” style establishment in New York City’s Upper East Side neighborhood set to open on March 21, there will be no menu boards, chairs or cash registers. 

Customers will order ahead on the mobile app, and the restaurant will be alerted by geofencing when they are on their way to pick up the food. Inside, a monitor will display the customer’s name and whether their order is ready or being prepared. When the order is ready, customers will go to the front and pick it up from an employee. 

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The company says the concept will “ensure each meal is timed" with the customer's arrival.” 

The store will be led by local owner-operator Jared Caldwell, who previously owned and operated another Chick-fil-A on 3rd Avenue and 86th Street. 

“[W]e are always looking for ways to innovate and enhance the Guest experience,” Nathaniel Cates, senior principal design lead, said in a statement. “While digital concepts are becoming more prevalent, it’s important that we evolve in a uniquely Chick-fil-A way — meeting the changing needs of our customers without compromising the signature service and care they’ve grown to know and love.” 

According to NBC’s “Today” show, roughly 50% of Chick-fil-A’s transactions are through mobile orders nationwide, a figure that is even higher in urban centers like New York City. 

“Chick-fil-A wants to focus on serving the customer in the way that they want to be served,” Cates told the outlet. 

Fast-food chains have expanded their mobile ordering options in recent years and have been bold in experimenting with the design of their locations, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, which kept potential customers from dining in. 

Many apps will allow customers to place orders for pick up in drive-through, in-store, or curbside delivery. 

Chipotle rolled out its first digital-only restaurant in 2020 in Highland Falls, New York. In 2022, Taco Bell opened a two-story location in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, with four drive-through lanes that deliver food via an elevator system, rather than face-to-face communication with an employee. 

In 2023, Chick-fil-A announced plans for its own elevated drive-through format, where an elevated kitchen sits on top of four drive-through lanes. The order will be delivered by a team member.  

“By building the kitchen above the drive-thru lanes, meals are expedited to the Team Member who delivers the order directly to the customer in a space protected by the upper level, so hospitality won’t be sacrificed for speed of service,” a July 2023 announcement reads. “Regardless of how you choose to order your meal, the restaurant design is made to elevate and accelerate the experience but keep the human interaction at its core.”

Chick-fil-A is also experimenting through its innovative kitchen brand, Little Blue Menu, which opened a restaurant in College Park, Maryland, last September. At this location near the University of Maryland campus, guests can order popular foods that are not normally seen on a Chick-fil-A menu, such as wings, burgers and even pizza. 

“College Park is a hub for innovation, so we can think of no better place to introduce Little Blue Menu and give customers more of what they want,” L.J. Yankosky, senior director of the innovation and new ventures team at Chick-fil-A, said. “We can't wait to serve the community and become an integral part of the local dining scene.” 

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