Chick-fil-A changes drive-through lines to cope with traffic


One of the busiest fast-food restaurants in the Tuscaloosa area is changing the way its serves its drive-through customers in an attempt to decrease wait times and increase safety.

Ashley Gill, owner and operator of the Chick-fil-A in Northport beside the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, said the restaurant serves an “absolutely insane” number of customers during its lunch rush.

“I can’t imagine anywhere else in the county is serving as many customers as we are,” Gill said. “It’s upwards of 130 customers in one hour, and that’s in the drive-through alone.”

Gill said she’s grateful for that level of patronage, but it’s causing traffic problems on and around the small lot that houses her restaurant.

“One of the biggest issues, really, is the problems we’re causing on Highway 82 when people are trying to get into our parking lot,” Gill said. “It’ll back up all the way across the highway and that’s just not our goal.”

Gill said she wants to alleviate that traffic and raise the number of customers served, up to roughly 200 an hour at peak times, but that will require changes to the way people navigate the drive-through.

“To that end, we have been trying to do something a little more innovative where people are wrapping around the building,” Gill said. “When they pull in, they have to circle all the way around the lot before they get in the drive-through line. The goal there is to try to just get people off of 82 when the light’s green, get them in, and when the light turns red they’re not sitting across all that traffic.”

Gill said the restaurant introduced the new protocol Monday and will continue to implement it during peak lunch hours, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Eventually, it will be phased in for breakfast and dinner, until the wraparound system is in place anytime the Chick-fil-A is serving customers.

She said the new system is working well to reduce traffic backing up onto McFarland Boulevard but that some customers have expressed their displeasure to employees.

Gill said it’s OK to criticize the new system, but she requested that customers direct criticism to her or general manager Shane Jones, either on the phone or inside the restaurant.

“We want to thank the Northport and Tuscaloosa communities for responding so well to Chick-fil-A and putting us in what we would call a ‘growth crisis,’ where we’re growing to a point where we just have to think about things differently,” Gill said. “We’re asking for patience and understanding while we all learn the new system. We hope they’ll give it a shot and we’ll also welcome any constructive feedback, but just make sure it’s going to the right person.”

A short video guide to the new drive-through system can be found on the Chick-fil-A Northport Facebook page.

 

Reach Stephen Dethrage at stephen.dethrage@tuscaloosanews.com or 722-0227.



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