Fast food chains relying on drive-thrus for coronavirus survival

A Chick-fil-A in Virginia is seeing an influx of cars spill into the street

Chick-fil-A's only drive-thru location in Harrisonburg, Virginia, has been booming with so much business every day that it has dozens of staff working to handle the overflow of cars.

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On a recent Monday, there were nearly 40 employees on the day shift to handle operations, a senior executive of the location Melissa Good told FOX Business.

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Chick-fil-A is one of the many fast-food joints relying on drive-thru service to keep the doors open during the coronavirus pandemic after officials banned the dine-in service throughout the country to mitigate the virus' spread.

Chick-fil-A's Harrisonburg location has had so much business, management has dedicated employees to handle the overflow of cars that have been spilling into the roadway, Good said. At any given time, there are at least 14 employees outside in the parking lot to handle tasks including curbside pickup, greeting the delivery partners, such as Doordash,  handling payment and taking orders.

Chick-fil-A in Harrisonburg, Virginia, on June 13, 2020. (FOX Business)

The drive-thru service, which first emerged in the 1930s, is serving as a financial reprieve for some of the industries heaviest hitters who are trying to remain viable. It's a trend that's expected to continue even as some local governments ease in dine-in services due to capacity restrictions and ongoing health concerns regarding infection.

In fact, while the virus slammed the in-person operations, drive-thrus were able to offset some of the losses. Drive-thrus generated $8.3 billion throughout the fast-food industry in March, according to the New York Times, citing data from NPD Group. During the same period in 2019, drive-throughs generated $8 billion in sales industrywide.

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In recent weeks, drive-throughs have helped fast-food chains bolster their sales so much that many of them "are in full recovery," according to Restaurant Business Online.

In fact, while the virus slammed the in-person operations, drive-throughs were able to offset some of the losses, generating $8.3 billion across the fast-food industry in March, according to the New York Times, citing data from NPD Group. During the same period in 2019, drive-throughs generated $8 billion in sales industrywide.

Chick-fil-A in Harrisonburg, Virginia, on June 13, 2020. (FOX Business)

Within the past month alone, the Harrisonburg spot had to hire an additional 12 to 15 employees to handle the uptick in demand. Good says they are still actively hiring as they expect the demand to continue, especially as they begin to reopen dine-in services. When that will be is still yet to be determined.

The restaurant also has "expeditors" who stand by the drive-thru window and take orders to cars who are further back in line.

And Chick-Fil-A is not the only one making drive-thrus and curb-side service more efficient. Earlier this year, Panera added geofencing technology to its curbside pickup service to get notifications when customers arrive and added free wifi for its customers too.

Representatives for Chick-fil-A's corporate headquarters declined to comment on how its drive-through serviceaffected revenue across all its locations since it closed dine-in operations starting in mid-March.

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And the company has not announced when they would reopen dine-in services at its locally-owned restaurants around the nation saying only that its "operators are following the guidelines of their individual communities when it comes to expanding service offerings."

"This means Chick-fil-A restaurants will open for carry-out and in-restaurant dining on different timelines," the company's corporate website announced. "It also means individual restaurants may close again if needed."

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