Looks like another sign of the inevitable great robot war

By Mike Pomranz
Updated October 11, 2018
Credit: photo by The Boston Globe via getty images

Imagine this restaurant: You walk in and there’s nowhere to order. No one greets you and asks you what you want. Once you grab your food, there’s nowhere to sit and eat. You have no choice but to go home and eat it in your pajamas on the couch. Sounds like a dream come true, right?

Chick-fil-A is opening two test units this month that forego many of the amenities you’d expect from the chain. Both of these new locations—one in Nashville and one in Louisville—will have no dining rooms. Instead, they’ll focus on delivery, carryout, and catering. But potentially even more telling of the times, the new Nashville location won’t accept cash, and the Louisville location won’t have any walkup ordering whatsoever, meaning the only way to get your chicken fix is to place your order online.

“Customers are relying more on mobile delivery,” said Will Sims, the operator of the Nashville restaurant franchise, “and this new location helps us provide that convenience.” At this Tennessee location, delivery customers are able to place their order through DoorDash. And though people can order inside at the counter, Chick-fil-A writes that since the store won’t accept cash, the brand’s mobile app is still probably your best bet even for carryout.

Carrie Kurlander, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of external communications, told Nation’s Restaurant News that the concepts have been in development for about a year. “We’ve been working on a new restaurant prototype that can better serve the emerging demand for delivery and simultaneously address the demand for catering orders,” she said.

Bruce Smith, who operates the new Kentucky location, suggests it’s better for his employees as well. “This is a tremendous opportunity to create a better experience for restaurant Team Members and customers alike,” he said in a statement. “Team Members can stay focused on making sure every customer has the best possible experience at our restaurants.”

Meanwhile, will people even miss the Chick-fil-A dining rooms? Sure, you might not have any bright red chairs at home, but you have a couch, and thanks to mobile delivery ordering you don’t have to get off that couch. And even if you did go to Chick-fil-A for the ambience, there’s probably some documentary on the history of ambience that you can fire up on Netflix. It almost leaves you wondering how long it may be before the chain ditches the dining rooms in its other 2,230 units.