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Chick-fil-A lovers are more than happy to wait in the longest drive-thru line in fast food to get their chicken sandwiches.
But, at some of the chain’s locations, out-of-control drive-thru lines are causing problems for neighboring businesses.
Mario Kiezi, who owns a shopping center in Toledo, Ohio, told Insider that a Chick-fil-A location in a neighboring lot has created a disaster scenario. The fast-food chain’s drive-thru line regularly stretches into his shopping center’s parking lot, blocking parking spaces
“Customers have a hard time getting in,” Kiezi said. “Customers have a hard time leaving. In some instances, customers are trapped in their parking spots. We have had instances where people that are parked in handicap spaces are not able to back out of their space.”
Kiezi filed a lawsuit against Chick-fil-A in December, making him at least the third business owners to sue the chicken chain in 2020 in a case related to the chain’s drive-thru. Business owners in Beaumont, Texas and Union, New Jersey also alleged that Chick-fil-A’s long drive-thru lines were damaging business and driving away customers.
Other business owners who haven’t filed lawsuits say they are facing similar problems. Insider found dozens of instances of business complaints, police intervention, and significant traffic problems linked to Chick-fil-A’s drive-thrus across more than 20 states in recent years.
Drive-thru traffic skyrocketed during the pandemic, causing new problems
According to business owners and local government officials, problems have gotten worse during the pandemic.
Sylvia Tan, the store manager of Joi Wig Salon, in Springfield, Virginia, told Insider that Chick-fil-A’s drive-thru lane makes it difficult for customers to enter the salon every day the restaurant is open.
“The customers, they’re fed up,” Tan said. “All our spaces are blocked right in the front, including our handicap spots. And we have a lot of clients with disabilities.”
“We’re a small mom-and-pop shop,” Tan added. “So I feel like nobody really cares about us. The property manager … they care more about Chick-fil-A than us.”
Victor Albisu, the founder of Taco Bamba, which has a location in the same shopping center, said dealing with the Chick-fil-A drive-thru line is a “constant struggle.” Taco Bamba workers are forced to weave in between the cars in the drive-thru to fulfill orders because of the line of cars standing between customers and the restaurant, Albisu said.
“You sign up to be a cashier and then you’re really not a cashier — you’re somebody running across a mall with a bag of tacos,” Albisu said, adding that he’s constantly telling staff to stay safe.
Tan said that Joi Wig Salon planned to move when its lease is up later this year.
“It was solely because of the Chick-fil-A line,” Tan said. “There was no other reason.”
Andy Douglas, a lawyer representing Kiezi, said he’s received calls from businesses across the country from business owners dealing with similar issues.
“The stories are almost identical — that poor people, who are individuals without the wherewithal to fight somebody like Chick-fil-A, are just expected to cave in and give them whatever they want,” Douglas said.
Chick-fil-A said in a statement to Insider that it strives to be a good neighbor, and has modified its drive-thrus to accommodate increased activity due to closed dining rooms during the pandemic.
“In addition to corporate investment in innovation, our restaurant Operators and their leaders worked with and continue to work with landlords and local authorities on a localized throughput plan unique to each individual restaurant and community to identify the best possible solution that considers the needs of our customers, neighbors and Team Members,” Chick-fil-A said in a statement.
Insider spoke with 10 business owners, government employees, and Chick-fil-A workers about how drive-thru lines are impacting local communities. Along with local news reports and analysis of four lawsuits, insiders describe a looming problem that Chick-fil-A is working to solve before it becomes a catastrophe.