Chick-fil-A modifies drive-thru service, halts free refills as restaurants reopen

Chick-fil-A dining rooms across the country are starting to reopen this summer.
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/ Source: TODAY
By Aly Walansky

After shutting down for several weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants and businesses across the country are now starting to reopen. However, eating at fast-food chains, along with most eateries, will likely look quite different in the coming months.

On Friday, Chick-fil-A released new guidelines and recommendations franchisees should follow as they reopen their dining rooms to customers. Though most locations of the beloved chicken chain have continued to offer drive-thru and to-go services since the beginning of the health crisis, even those offerings will continue to look a little different — or continue to be updated for health and safety purposes — in the foreseeable future.

Since different parts of the country are in different phases of reopening, the experience of eating at a Chick-fil-A will vary by state.

"Our restaurants are locally owned and Operators are following the guidelines of their individual communities when it comes to expanding service offerings," Chick-fil-A wrote in a blog post on its press site. "This means Chick-fil-A restaurants will open for carry-out and in-restaurant dining on different timelines. It also means individual restaurants may close again if needed."

However, the chain said there are several protocols all of its locations must follow.

Dine-in service

Customers who choose to dine in at Chick-fil-A will notice several social-distancing reminders, including signage on restaurant walls, barriers and tables (some tables may actually be blocked off), encouraging patrons to maintain space between others. Some restaurants will also have employees opening doors for customers, while others may be tasked with managing lines to maintain limits on how many people are inside at any given time.

Where possible, outdoor seating will be encouraged, weather permitting. Napkin dispensers, flower vases and other “hospitality amenities” have been removed from tables to decrease high-touch areas in stores.

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Plexiglass shields have also been installed at ordering counters and, while credit cards and cash are still accepted at all locations, mobile payments through Chick-fil-A’s app are being encouraged to decrease points of contact.

Dine-in meals will be no longer be served on reusable trays, but instead all customers will receive their orders in to-go bags. Condiments will no longer be offered in areas where customers can just grab them on their own. Drink refills are being suspended temporarily at all locations, as well.

Staff members are now being required to submit to regular temperature checks at the beginning of each shift and all team members will be wearing face coverings. Employees will also be disinfecting high-touch surfaces in stores, including credit card readers, door handles and tablets, about every 30 minutes.

Drive-thru and to-go orders

All drive-thru orders will be handed to customers via contactless methods and team members must stay at least six feet away from customers while taking their orders. Patrons will again be asked to use contactless payment methods or swipe their own card. If customers choose to use cash, they will be paying via a new system: Currency will be placed in a bin, then that bin will be returned to the customer with their change so no hand-to-hand contact occurs.

Employee hand-washing stations have also been installed outside for those team members to use.

Some locations are also offering curbside pickup, which requires customers to first place their orders through Chick-fil-A's app. When customers get to the store location, they can type, “I’m here,” in the Chick-fil-A app and the food will then be delivered to their car by a team member using contactless delivery.