I like to eat at Chick-Fil-A restaurants. While living in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, this is easy to do since Chick-Fil-A is based in Atlanta and they have numerous restaurants clustered around their headquarters.
I live in Virginia now and while there are fewer Chick-Fil-A restaurants here, thankfully, there is one about a mile from my house. I eat at this location weekly, usually for lunch on Saturday, as a treat and because I like the food and it reminds me of Georgia.
My new CFA restaurant is always busy and crowded when I visit, often annoyingly so. This location is not the best-managed location I’ve visited. There is always a line of people waiting for their food and it is often difficult to find a seat. The ambience is, more often than not, carnival like: noisy, crowded, and disorganized. I find this environment unpleasant and most visits I am tempted to not return. But this is not Atlanta and there are few other choices for CFA restaurants so each week I join the circus to enjoy a taste of home.
On about every third or fourth visit I find, printed on my sales receipt, an offer from CFA to take a short survey about my recent dining experience. In exchange for my feedback CFA offers me a free sandwich on a future visit. My recent successes with my well-received feedback to Delta Airlines has emboldened me. Delta listened and is now “experimenting” with a new boarding process, the very process I recommended to them.
One of my repeated criticisms of this CFA restaurant is the lousy placement of the condiment station which creates a mosh pit environment. The condiment station is located in what should be a key thoroughfare between the counter where you place your order and the dining area. This placement is ideally suited to creating an annoying, uncomfortable, chaotic mob. I don’t like crowds and I like mobs even less. This element of the dining experience almost makes me quit this restaurant location for good. But, as I mentioned, this is the only convenient CFA for me. I’ve accepted CFA’s offer to provide feedback on every occasion always noting the illogical placement of the condiment station and the resulting mosh pit.
Last Saturday I visited this CFA restaurant as part of my ritual. What I experienced was an unwitting participation in the celebration of this restaurant’s 2nd anniversary. The store was more crowded than usual, there were two large cow mascots outside greeting would-be diners, and balloons everywhere. The place was humming with excitement and energy which occasionally revealed itself in an unsavory carnival atmosphere - Step right up young man and I will guess your weight!
I decided to pursue my meal here and remain immersed in the excitement. The line to order food was not as long as I would have expected and it moved with promise and hope. In no time I was standing in the heretofore mosh pit area. But wait! The mosh pit had been partially transformed in to a semi-navigable thoroughfare for diners. I noticed the usual crowd and feeding frenzy at the condiment stand where several sets of hands reached to and fro to acquire napkins, mustard, drinking straws, and condiments with shuttle loom predictability.
That’s it! The proprietors had listened to my feedback; they had moved the condiment station! Scylla and Charybdis had been assuaged. The mosh pit was returned to its rightful place, the concert hall. People were moving about freely, they were smiling, and the process of ordering and receiving one’s food was improved.
I am pleased with my success and I received a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich for my effort. Chick-Fil-A received my consulting services for $3.06. Not bad for either of us but it does explain why Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A, was worth $4 billion and I am not.