Chick-fil-A’s First New York City Restaurant – Review

Patrons in the upstairs dining room on opening day

By Jonathan Spira on 5 October 2015
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The opening of the first full-service Chick-fil-A restaurant in Manhattan was eagerly awaited by many New Yorkers, myself included, despite the fact that the chain is relatively unknown in these parts. The Georgia-based company built its reputation on a simple breaded chicken breast sandwich served on a soft, buttered bun accompanied by a slice of pickle. However, aside from a small counter with a limited menu at a New York University food court, there were no Chick-fil-As in New York City.

The wait ended Saturday when, at noon, the largest Chick-fil-A in the United States – it covers 5,000 square feet (464.5 square meters) across three floors – opened on Sixth Avenue on the corner of 37 Street. My dining companion and I arrived a few hours after the opening and the wait on the line that snaked down the block and wrapped around the corner was approximately 35 minute according to staffers, but we had food within roughly 20 minutes.

The new restaurant was ready for Manhattanites. There were rope lines, signs asking those waiting not to block entrances to other establishments, milestones (“20 minutes until you’re out the door with food”) and a system of ordering that other fast food establishments could learn from. (There were also several police officers standing by, presumably waiting for protestors due to what the chain’s CEO Dan Cathay had said against gay marriage three years ago. Cathay softened his public stance later on, telling USA Today that “All of us become more wise as time goes by. We sincerely care about all people.” His original comments prompted gay couples to have kiss-ins outside Chick-fil-A restaurants and the mayors of Chicago and Denver to say that they would not welcome additional Chick-fil-A stores in their cities. For the record, we saw no protestors at the time of our visit, but local news media did report that some had been there earlier.)

Chick-fil-A staffers preparing meals on opening day

Chick-fil-A staffers preparing meals on opening day

Staffers were chatting up those waiting, handing out menus, wearing red shoes and dancing on the sidewalk (leading me to joke to my dining companion that the opening was sponsored by Kinky Boots, albeit an unlikely alliance).

The secret to the speed of the line became apparent after entering the store. Several managers, including the owner-operator Oscar Fittipaldi, who previously was the owner-operator of the chain’s Philadelphia establishment, were at the door greeting people and supervising the crowds while employees were taking orders from those in line using iPads and handing out color-coded tabs that were intended to direct us to the corresponding color-coded register.

The tab gave the cashier behind the counter everything he needs to know about the order. Within seconds of handing over the tab, your order (on a tray) is being handed over and your drinks and ice cream are being served. The restaurant takes Apple Pay, which I used from my Apple Watch, so we were at the cashier for maybe 90 seconds at most.

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