- Chick-fil-A announced Monday that it is testing meal kits in 150 locations in the Atlanta area from Aug. 27 through Nov. 17. The quick-service chain will have five Mealtime Kits options — chicken parmesan, chicken enchiladas, chicken flatbread, Dijon chicken and pan-roasted chicken.
- During the test, two kits will be offered at the same time. The kits are created to feed two people and will cost $15.89. Chick-fil-A will gauge customer feedback on the test before deciding whether or not to roll it out nationwide.
- Michael Patrick, innovation program lead at the chain, said the company designed the kits so guests wouldn’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.”
Competition in the $5 billion meal kit category is about to get even more intense with quick-service heavyweight Chick-fil-A jumping in, even if just for a limited time. Chick-fil-A is wildly popular — having earned the No. 1 spot in the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual survey for a third year in a row — and it has the brand equity to be a real threat here.
It makes just as much sense for a quick-service restaurant giant with deep pockets and a savvy food innovation team to try its hand at meal kits as it does a grocer. Chick-fil-A chef Stuart Tracy helped develop the kits, so there shouldn’t be too much of a disconnect from the chain's main offerings.
But consumers don’t go to Chick-fil-A to bring home a meal kit that requires another 30 minutes of prep and cook time — they go because they won’t have to cook, and because it’s fast, cheap and convenient. Moreover, the price tag — two people for $15.89 — is on the high end of meal kits. According to CNBC, these meals cost on average $9.99 to $13.50 per portion. By comparison, Kroger’s Prep + Pared meal kits start at $14 and include a bigger variety of options, including steak, vegetarian and salmon meals. It's unclear if shoppers will be enthused about a meal kit that only offers chicken variations, even if its attached to the Chik-fil-A brand.
Technomic warned that meal kit services could reduce restaurant takeout and delivery by up to 47%, so it’s worth a try for Chick-fil-A to gauge whether or not the idea resonates with its loyal fan base to avoid that potential blow. The chain's test also underscores the dizzying pace at which foodservice lines are blurring.
Chick-fil-A’s pilot comes at a vulnerable time for the meal kit category. Chef’d announced just last week that it is ceasing operations, and Blue Apron has struggled since going public last year. With a low barrier for entry, the meal kit market has become infiltrated with more than 150 companies, according to Packaged Facts. But manufacturers of the pre-portioned meals have grappled with how to reach profitability, keep subscribers from fleeing and adapt to changing consumer preferences.
The challenge for Chick-fil-A will be to seamlessly roll this additional channel into its business. As Max Dresse, associate director of product innovation with HelloFresh U.S., explained recently, "We've seen with some of our competitors that they are really struggling on the operational side, so what we believe in this space is that there is going to be less and less brands."
It’s hard to imagine Chick-fil-A committing to meal kits if the test compromises its juggernaut restaurant business. Should the test prove successful, however, the chain will have a significant advantage in its more than 2,300 restaurants and loyal fan base. Also, if the quick-service leader finds its footing in meal kits, it wouldn’t be surprising for other chains with the research and innovation muscle to experiment as well, upping the ante on traditional meal kit players by meeting the biggest demand of all — convenience.