Chick-fil-A to pilot meal kit market test in ATL

Photo: Chick-fil-A
Jul 24, 2018
George Anderson

The meal kit business isn’t easy, but that isn’t stopping new players from entering the market on a regular basis. The latest case in point is Chick-fil-A, which will begin testing its MealTime kits at 150 restaurants in the Atlanta area beginning on Aug. 27.

The chain’s pilot will feature recipes and pre-measured ingredients for five chicken entrees (you were expecting beef?) — Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Enchiladas, Dijon Chicken, Pan Roasted Chicken and Chicken Flatbread.

Kits, which sell for $15.89, may be ordered using the Chick-fil-A One app and/or picked up at the restaurant’s counters or drive-throughs.

“We know our guests are busier than ever and need a variety of convenient dinner options. We’re excited to offer Mealtime Kits as a new way for us to serve our guests by providing fresh ingredients to enjoy a delicious meal at home.” said Michael Patrick, an innovation program lead at Chick-fil-A, in a statement.

Chick-fil-A to pilot meal kit market test in ATL
Photo: Chick-fil-A

“We designed our offering so our guests don’t have to order ahead, subscribe to a service, or make an extra stop at the grocery store. They simply pick up a Mealtime Kit at one of our restaurants at their convenience — for example, when they’re already at a Chick-fil-A restaurant grabbing breakfast or lunch, or in the drive-thru on their way home, said Mr. Patrick.

Chick-fil-A claims to be the first quick service restaurant in the U.S. to introduce its own meal kits. The decision on whether to roll the program out nationally will be determined based on customer feedback from the test in Atlanta.

While Chick-fil-A enters the market, many questions remain about the viability of meal kit businesses. Chef’d, a national meal kit company, suspended operations last week after burning through tens of millions of dollars invested by big food companies, including Campbell Soup and Smithfield Foods, as well as by venture capital firms. The company, as a Wall Street Journal article points out, was one of the first to sell its meal kits through grocery stores as well as online, but that was not enough to keep the business going.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think about the meal kit business, in general, and Chick-fil-A’s entry into it? Do you expect to see Chick-fil-A rolling out its MealTime kits nationally?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Their locations, customer service and food quality could be their secret weapon against the rest of their meal kit competitors."
"...overall I’m having a hard time seeing this as a smart idea for the fast-food company."
"First … I can’t wait to try it! Anything with Chick-fil-A chicken is going to be delicious! Seriously, this is a great concept."

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20 Comments on "Chick-fil-A to pilot meal kit market test in ATL"

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Mark Ryski

Meal kits can be positioned in lots of interesting ways by different players and that’s why I think the meal kit space is still seeing new entrants and attracting capital. However, the meal kit business is becoming very crowded and I wonder about the long-term sustainability for many of the players in the space. While Chick-fil-A brings a slightly new twist to the meal kit market, I don’t see this changing the category dynamics. In fact, the positioning of meal kits as healthy alternatives seems to conflict with the positioning of fast food. I’m skeptical that the Chick-fil-A will gain enough traction to roll out this concept out nationally.

Dr. Stephen Needel

When I think about a gourmet chicken dinner I can make at home, I think of Chick-fil-A! Really? Yes, they could surprise me, but at $8 a person I’m more likely to a.) go out or b.) order a pizza. I love their chicken sandwiches, but I don’t see them for my parmigiana. Glad to see they are testing this first.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

What is so compelling about Chick-fil-A’s offering is how convenient it is for the customer. No subscription or placing orders required. Also no delivery costs for Chick-fil-A. The offering is very compatible with Chick-fil-A’s core business so it should add line extension sales. The keys are quality and reliable availability of the kits during peak demand times. Winner, winner — chicken dinner in minutes with no fuss.

Art Suriano

Overall the meal kit industry appeals to a small audience with the potential for it to grow as the choices increase; however, I don’t see it ever being a big industry. That said, there is nothing wrong with Chick-fil-A giving it a shot for their restaurants. For years Dunkin’ Donuts has sold its coffee in packages and now in pods for Keurig machines so why shouldn’t Chick-fil-A try meal kits for their customers as well? I don’t see it as a big seller, but there will be those customers who love Chick-fil-A products that will give it a try.

Long-term the meal kit industry has many obstacles to overcome like selection, the ability to mix and match items and cost. For now, it remains more of a novelty than a viable food solution, but as long as customers are willing to give it a try it will survive.

Tom Dougherty

I actually think it is a smart move. Chick-fil-A has a very loyal following. This is simply an additional means to build the bond.

Anything mobile (and kit foods are an extension of that concept) is the future.

Seth Nagle

The home of the meal kit has yet to be established but I think we’re getting close. From venture capital and grocers to now fast food chains, one of these business models has to stick — right?

Fast food is an interesting option though because it disrupts the current value offering of instant gratification for the consumer. However, things are changing and if any fast food chain can do it it’s Chick-fil-A. Their locations, customer service and food quality could be their secret weapon against the rest of their meal kit competitors.

Sky Rota
11 months 29 days ago

I don’t think the meal kit business is anything but a novelty. If my mom is in a Chick-fil-A drive-thru she’s not getting a meal to take home and cook. Isn’t that the whole purpose?

David Weinand

They have a fiercely loyal customer base which may get some early trials but I’m not sure the varieties of meals they are offering will be of that much interest to their base. And what of that quick and easy Sunday meal? Not happening for Chick-fil-A.

Meaghan Brophy

In general, I like the meal kit concept. But way too many companies are trying to get in on the hype and the marketplace is quickly becoming very oversaturated. When all is said and done I think only a few of the original meal kit companies will remain. Chick-fil-A has an extremely loyal following, so they might pull this off. But overall I’m having a hard time seeing this as a smart idea for the fast-food company. As others have pointed out — couldn’t you just buy an already cooked Chick-fil-A meal for the same price?

Brandon Rael

As an extension of the brand, a meal kit offering may just resonate for Chick-fil-A, as they already have a cult following of customers. It will take some experimentation on their part, as the typical Chick-fil-A customer isn’t necessarily looking to cook their own meals, rather they come in for a fast, efficient, affordable, tasty and relatively affordable “healthier” fast food.

The key will be for Chick-fil-A to test this out regionally to see if there is a compelling business case to expand this concept out nationally.

Evan Snively

I hope Chick-fil-A doesn’t confuse curiosity with viability. I am sure that their sales for this service will be strong in the first few months, but they need to make sure that they have a system in place that allows them to track how many REPEAT customers they have during their test period for a true measure of success.

Matt Sebek

Whether or not this is operationally scalable for Chick-fil-A is beside the (short-term) point, in my opinion. This is all about driving sentiment in the QSR market that is leaning more and more towards “fresh/healthy.” If Chick-fil-A can convince the public that their chicken is sustainable and actually worthy of serving on a dinner table, they increase their brand sentiment without changing a thing about their traditional menu/restaurants.

Customers already “feel” like Chick-fil-A is a healthier option than McDonald’s, even though the nutrition facts are near identical. This gets Chick-fil-A into a new product offering while also improving brand sentiment. Great move.

Carlos Arambula

I think Chick-fil-A is very smart in targeting a mealtime space that’s currently occupied by the grocery store deli. This is the last-minute “I haven’t prepared dinner” space.

While any meal kit company has to build their brand and the category, it’s a short distance to the category by a QSR with a well-defined and trusted brand.

I would expect a national roll-out. Meal kit companies have struggled to develop their business — for Chick-fil-A it will just be an extension of their brand.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

The meal kit business can be successful if it is designed to serve the needs of potential customers. Current offerings requiring a subscription and plan-ahead efforts limit market potential. Chick-fil-A’s no subscription and no call-ahead features give customers many of the attributes they are seeking in terms of “what’s for dinner tonight.” The vast majority of American families do not know what they are eating for dinner as late as 4 p.m.

Chick-fil-A has a terrific following. This test, which I predict will be successful, will lead to further expansion of the concept. With this move, Chick-fil-A moves into a space previously held by food retailers as well as traditional restaurants, making it a formidable competitor to both.

Georganne Bender

I am still a traditional grocery store mega-cart shopper, and my husband and I prepare a sit down dinner each night. Meal subscription services just don’t appeal to me because I always wonder if the food they send is actually fresh. Grocery stores have been doing a great job with meal kits lately and you can depend on the freshness of the ingredients, especially when they are prepared in-store.

Fast food has always had the same limited sales path, this is a new twist. I remember reading a study that found women do not like to get out of the car to pay for gas or to run into a fast food restaurant or convenience store — I think we’re going to like this option. And at $15.89 for an antibiotic-free, healthy dinner for two, Chick-fil-A has a winner here. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Atlanta test pans out.

Cathy Hotka

In certain parts of the country, Chick-fil-A has a cult-like following, much like Dunkin’ Donuts’ following in the Northeast. I’m doubtful that meal kits will expand their customer base, but existing customers may well want to try a meal kit. And if the pilot fails, nothing is lost.

Shep Hyken

First … I can’t wait to try it! Anything with Chick-fil-A chicken is going to be delicious! Seriously, this is a great concept. The opportunity for cross sales between on premise meals and meal kits (stop by for a meal kit and just happen to buy a sandwich — and vice-versa) could be a strong revenue enhancement. The next step is delivery, which some of their competitors in the meal kit world already offer.

Craig Sundstrom

Not much. Unlike may ideas which have developed because of the growth of the internet and online shopping, “meal kits” seem to have merely developed coincident to it. But why? Why would people suddenly need or even want something which they always could have had, but never particularly asked for? There is the usual excuse offered here that people are “busier than ever,” but if that’s really the case, then I think they’ll opt for take-out (or actually eating out); and if not, then I think too few will be willing to pay the hefty premium for the small time savings afforded by having the ingredient boxed together.

As for Chick-fil-A particularly, although they may be helped by what is essentially a cult following, none of the specific dishes being offered are something they normally sell, so I’m not sure how much spillover there will be from traditional customers … and I’m curious about the logistics of a store noted for not being open on Sundays offering what is traditionally a Sunday dinner.

Ken Morris

Convenience is king! As busy consumers value convenience, meal kits have been a hot item for shoppers as an alternative to eating at restaurants or cooking from scratch. Nearly every grocery chain has meal kit offerings and even Amazon looks to be adding it soon.

Chick-fil-A’s entry into the meal kit category with its MealTime kits is a logical offering to appeal to changing consumer preferences. Chick-fil-A has a passionate and loyal fan base and offering another way to enjoy their chicken with creative new meals should add incremental revenues for its stores. Chick-fil-A is a industry leader and wouldn’t have begun this pilot without doing their homework. I would expect this program to roll out nationally once pilot results are in.

Harley Feldman

The meal kit business can be viable, but the market is teaching the meal kit providers the lessons to be successful and those that will not work. Chick-fil-A has the resource reputation, restaurants for pick up and food reputation that other fast food restaurants may not have. If it does not work, they can shut it down without damaging their reputation. If it works in Atlanta, they will likely roll it out nationally.

"Their locations, customer service and food quality could be their secret weapon against the rest of their meal kit competitors."
"...overall I’m having a hard time seeing this as a smart idea for the fast-food company."
"First … I can’t wait to try it! Anything with Chick-fil-A chicken is going to be delicious! Seriously, this is a great concept."

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