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The science behind Chick-fil-A's drive-thru

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - When Chick-fil-A opened its doors at Jefferson Pointe in 2002, it was the northernmost free-standing Chick-fil-A in the country.

Sales were lean the first few years until the business took off.

Owner/Operator Jeff Hoffman said he visited practically every neighboring business in a three-mile radius to encourage people to try his food.

Hoffman's logic was simple: "Once people can taste it, they'll buy it."

Hoffman's hunch was right. So right, he said lunch traffic became a problem at shopping center.

"Cars were blocking the entrance. Businesses were worried they couldn't get to their location."

The dining room crowd was always strong, but a change to the drive-thru sent sales through the roof.

Hoffman's daughter, Liz Kelpin was placed in charge of the eatery's drive-thru. She said she visited some of the top performing drive-thrus in the country and learned their was an opportunity that Fort Wayne's Chick-fil-A was not taking advantage of.

They decided to change their drive-thru layout. 

Customers now loop around the building to enter the drive-thru service line where they're met by a well-coordinated team of Chick-fil-A employees.

"We take our orders outside," said Kelpin. "We take payment outside. We deliver the food outside."

That allows the restaurant the flexibility to meet customers where they are and to continue taking orders even if there is a large order.

"The Chick-fil-A goal is, 'a drive-thru experience that is fast and accurate, but never rushed.'"

As many as ten people work the drive-thru at peak hours.

Hoffman says the drive-thru now averages 122 cars served between noon and 1 p.m. with a record of 152 cars in one hour.

Hoffman says his staff's attention to customer service is what sets Chick-fil-A apart from the others.

"We train them in what we call the core four. Eye contact. Share a smile. Speak enthusiastically, and stay connected from the heart."

Next year, Chick-fil-A fans on the north side of Fort Wayne won't have to travel as far to satisfy their cravings.

Construction on a new free-standing restaurant is underway outside Glenbrook Mall. Hoffman says the new location is scheduled to open in January.

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