Automation is nothing new to the fast-food industry—in fact, chain restaurants have thrived on it for decades. For example, had Ray Kroc not been selling highly efficient milkshake machines to fast-food restaurants in the early 1950s, McDonald's might never have become the industry leader it is today, according to Biography. From the drive-thru line first used in the mid 20th century to the digital order apps of today, technology has long been a part of the business model for many operations.
So it was a surprise that so many Chick-fil-A fans reacted with such vitriol to the revelation that some of the chain's restaurants use a conveyor belt system to move orders around behind the scenes. According to Newsweek, a video showing the Chick-fil-A conveyor belt system that was uploaded to the social media platform TikTok garnered millions of views and, before the comments were turned off, thousands of comments, many of which were highly critical of the system.
Many viewers called the use of an in-store conveyor belt delivery system "lazy" and derided the franchise for its use. However, a deeper dig into the situation revealed that these systems are hardly widespread across all locations, and were designed to improve both customer experience and employee safety.
According to Newsweek, A Chick-fil-A representative said the chain uses a conveyor belt system in only some "30 restaurants chainwide," which comes out to only about 1% of the units in all of the country.
The same Chick-fil-A spokesperson stated that "It's mostly used horizontally at restaurants with a [second] lane drive-thru kiosk," adding that the goal was primarily to keep employees safe when they were walking outside among cars.
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