Chick-fil-A Offers Behind-The-Counter Tours in Transparency Push

Chain Freshens Salads, Launches Wrap With 'Full Serving' of Veggies

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Want a tour of your local Chick-fil-A's kitchen before you buy their new wrap?

Chick-Fil-A's new salads
Chick-Fil-A's new salads

As part of a transparency push, Chick-fil-A will offer instant behind-the-counter tours to anyone who wants them, in addition to overhauling its salads and chicken wrap in the hopes that the new items will be perceived as healthier.

That Chick-fil-A is offering tours at its 1,700 locations is a first for a national chain, but whether many customers will care enough to ask for one -- or whether it's feasible during peak hours -- is another story. "It's a nice warm fuzzy, but the challenge is, how are they going to do this if they're in the middle of a hugely busy lunch or dinner hour? People want in and out fast," said Joel Cohen, a restaurant-marketing consultant. "There isn't that much to see, versus a casual-dining restaurant where there's a full kitchen."

The instant tours could offer headaches operationally. "You can't allow non-employees back behind the counter when you're busy," said Dennis Lombardi, exec VP-foodservice strategies at WD Partners, noting that there's a risk associated with that, not to mention disruption of workflow. "If you're going to offer it and there's fair number of people that want it, that can become problematic."

Even so, he speculated that the tour offers will "probably have a lot more buzz than people taking the tours. And I'm sure that's something they're planning on."

Chick-fil-A did not respond to requests for comment on the tours or any marketing it has planned.

The chicken chain is also adding calorie counts to all of its menu boards nationally as part of the transparency effort. Adding calorie count to menu boards for larger chains was a requirement that passed as part of the 2010 healthcare reform law. But the rule hasn't set in yet, as the Food and Drug Administration is mulling over what should exactly be covered in the new law. The FDA issued a proposed rule in 2011, but the final rule has not been determined, as many other retailers-supermarkets and convenience stores-are fighting against the rule.

Wraps these days appear to be the go-to items for fast-food chains looking to give off a healthier veneer. McDonald's just rolled out the McWrap--not only its biggest product launch of the year, but one that it's hoping will draw health-minded customers and millennials, who as a demographic generally value fresher, healthier food.

According to Chick-fil-A, its Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap includes "a full serving of vegetables and lean chicken on a new all-natural, high-fiber flax bread." The wrap starts at $4.89 and has 330 calories and 12 grams of fat.

The updated salads include romaine lettuce (as opposed to iceberg lettuce formerly used) and dressings Chick-fil-A said are unique to the chain. The updated cobb salad and Asian salads will now come topped with Chick-Fil-A's chicken nuggets, which, according to its website are pressure-cooked in peanut oil. The cobb salad has 430 calories and contains 39 grams of protein; the company did not detail fat content. The Asian salad has 330 calories and 13 grams of fat.

Chick-fil-A has been one of the best-performing chains in recent years, and its sales last year continued that trend, despite some negative publicity over CEO Dan Cathy's comments affirming traditional marriage. Chick-Fil-A last year posted system wide sales up 14.1% to $4.62 billion, according to Technomic. It's the No. 2 chicken chain, now trailing only slightly behind KFC, which posted sales of $4.66 billion, and could very well surpass KFC this year to the top roost in the category.

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