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Business

Chick-fil-A wants you to spend $2 not to go to Chick-fil-A

If you have a reputation for excellent customer service, is more technology the best way forward? It seems Chick-fil-A thinks it is.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on
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Why would you even go to the drive-thru when the drive-thru can come to you?

Screenshot by ZDNet

The choices that humans make aren't always the wisest.

All too often, they're based on some mixture of self-regard, self-indulgence, and sheer laziness.

You'd think, though, that if you really love a service, you'll remain loyal to it.

I'm not so sure about that. Because here is the regular leader in truly human fast-food customer service deciding that it needs robotic help.

We're speaking, with much reverence, of Chick-fil-A. This occasionally sanctimonious chicken chain is regularly at the summit of the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Its customer service humans are said to be exemplars of fine behavior. Yet here is the chain announcing that it's experimenting with robotic delivery. Specifically, the Kiwibot 4.0.

The chain told Restaurant Business that Santa Monica -- already a paradise of indolence -- is now being blessed with Chick-fil-A Kiwibot robots that bring your chicken sandwich to you.

Because why would you want to stand in line for, say, 10 minutes at a Chick-fil-A when a robot can bring you your order in, oh, thirty minutes?

Is that really such an excellent trade-off?

Well, you don't have to move, which is good. But then if you did move and walk a few minutes to the Chick-fil-A you'd burn up a few calories in anticipation of onloading thousands more calories with your Chick-fil-A meal.

Perhaps, though, that's a false analogy. Delivery has become vital for many during COVID-19. And, apparently, the real idea is to reduce the carbon footprint of something that would be a delivery anyway.

Even more excitingly, as Kiwibot COO Diego Varela Prada told Restaurant Business: "What we promise is to at least halve the time it takes for all orders a mile or closer, and more than half the cost."

So the robot can find its way more quickly than your average human?

It also has other skills that humans have, but don't use often enough. The ability to wink, for example. (Yes, I'm truly serious.)

I still worry.

Chick-fil-A has always had humanity as part of its essence. Its drive-thru is, according to research, the slowest. Yet its offering is the very best for accuracy, customer service, and taste. So who needs robots?

Oh, but everyone's being seduced by them these days. Domino's is launching its own robotic delivery boxes in Houston. Soon, indeed, there'll be far less room on sidewalks, as delivery robots constantly scoot through and around human legs in order to leap into human arms and satisfy human mouths and stomachs.

And, in Chick-fil-A's case, the delivery costs -- on average -- a mere $1.99. Yes, pay two bucks not to go to your favorite home of customer service.

Then again, it's not as if these things necessarily save on labor. Chick-fil-A's Kiwibots are still monitored by humans. They're apparently not very good at essentials, such as crossing the road. The robots, that is.

But they can learn. While humans, it seems, can only learn how to get lazier and lazier.

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