Sometimes even Chick-fil-A Misses the Mark

Good news! Chick-fil-A fanatics will soon be able to get a taste of the popular antibiotic-free chicken at home every day of the week. Yes, even Sundays. But, only if they are willing to prepare the meal themselves.

Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chicken chain with a highly loyal customer base, announced on Monday that it will be throwing its hat in the increasingly crowded meal kit ring. Starting in late August, Chick-fil-A Mealtime kits will be available for a limited time in 150 Atlanta locations. These meal kits will feature five chicken-centric recipes such as Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Parmesan, and Crispy Dijon Chicken. Sorry, but you won't find the Original Chicken Sandwich here. Each meal will serve two people, cost $15.89, and are designed to be prepared in 30 minutes or less.

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There’s one hiccup here. Despite plenty of recent movement in the space, the once-booming meal kit trend has seen better days. As shares fell 21 percent this year, major player in the space, Blue Apron is struggling to figure out the right business model to boost profit margins. At the same time, grocers are jumping on board, either through acquisitions of meal kit startups or developing in-house offerings. Whether an in-store format will have more luck than e-commerce models remains to be seen.

With so many players trying to solve the puzzle, has newcomer Chick-fil-A found the perfect recipe to make meal kits a success?

Let’s just say they shouldn’t count their chickens before they’ve hatched.

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Always eager to support a hometown brand, we at rDialogue admittedly love our Chick-fil-A. We are also partial to any company making strides to offer customers time-savings and convenience. After all, time is the new loyalty currency. However, Chick-fil-A’s entry into the meal kit space seems to miss the mark on delivering a convenient dinner option, in part because the chain already has a more convenient dinner option. By nature, customers frequent fast-food restaurants such as Chick-fil-A because they are just that – fast. The chain has built its brand on delivering fresh, "grade A” (that’s what the “A” stands for in the name) meals, quickly and at an affordable price. It seems counterintuitive to expect customers to willingly spend half an hour cooking their own dinner when fully prepared meals with the same, high-quality ingredients are readily available for purchase at the same location.

Since Chick-fil-A Mealtime kits may be ordered using the Chick-fil-A One app and/or picked up at the restaurant’s counters or drive-throughs, the company claims that they are a step above traditional meal kit services that require customers to subscribe and order ahead. I personally don’t believe this puts the chain at an advantage. While Chick-fil-A customers can order a meal kit ahead of time via the app, they still have to go to a physical location to pick it up. This disadvantage is further highlighted by the boom of food delivery services such as Postmates, Grubhub and Uber Eats, along with grocery delivery services like Instacart and Shipt that signal that customers are willing to pay for the convenience of having food delivered to their doorstep.

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In Chick-fil-A’s case, they’re betting on customers paying a premium for less convenience (Two #1 combo meals with the chain’s signature chicken sandwich, waffle fries and a sweet tea will cost a whopping $11.98 plus tax versus the $15.98 the chain is charging for its meal kit). While customers frequently make a trade-off between financial value and time-savings, Chick-fil-a’s newest offering provides neither.

While I appreciate Chick-fil-A’s attempt at innovation, the initiative seems to be geared more towards increasing the chain’s average ticket amount than making life easier for their busier-than-ever customers. Only time (and customer demand) will tell if Chick-fil-A Mealtime kits are here to stay or if they are just a flash in the pan.