Chick-fil-A doesn’t consider itself to be fast food like McDonald’s or fast-casual like Chipotle.
The company credits its “premium fast food” status as the secret to being the most-loved restaurant chain in America.
“We tend to see ourselves as being kind of a premium fast food,” David Farmer, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of product strategy and development, said to Business Insider during an exclusive media tour of the new Manhattan location.
That gives the brand an advantage over McDonald’s, which has struggled with poor brand perception, and Chipotle, which takes longer to order than typical fast food.
Farmer describes Chick-fil-A’s customers as “choosy people in a hurry” who are “discerning” – that is, “they want high quality, a good experience,” but they’re a bit “time-starved.”
Given the combination of what customers crave and their shortages on time, Farmer said that Chick-fil-A needs to deliver “the kind of food you don’t even associate with fast food.”
Further, Farmer credits Chick-fil-A’s freshly made food for helping the chain set itself apart from the run-of-the-mill fast-food chains – specifically the breaded chicken, the chicken that’s actually chicken, and the salads that are made that day.
- chickfila on Instagram
Chick-fil-A is transparent with what goes on in their kitchens – they even offer what the chain calls “backstage tours.”
He also attributes the chain’s distinctiveness to its hospitable staff.
“We want it to be the kind of experience you wouldn’t expect in fast food – that you would get at a more upscale restaurant,” Farmer said.
Farmer also said that fast-casual chains like Chipotle, Dig Inn, and Chop’t are equally “quick service,” but he placed them in a separate category.
Chick-fil-A is not trying to be anything but what it is – it owns the fact that it is a fast-food restaurant.
“We do see ourselves as being fast food,” Farmer said, citing how many locations offer drive-throughs, and speedily getting people in and out of the restaurant is a priority, the latter of which is a core tenet of the fast-food industry.
In the new Manhattan location, the restaurant will offer what it’s calling “upstreaming,” wherein customers will order their food while they wait in line to expedite the process.
Still, despite its popularity, the chain still faces some backlash for its controversial stance on gay marriage. Even though Chick-fil-A Dan Cathy apologized for his homophobic comments in an interview with with USA Today, Denver questioned allowing Chick-fil-A to set up shop because of its anti-gay history, Huffington Post reported.