The very busy Chick-fil-A in Deptford NJ on Clements Bridge Rd (CBR) in front of Lowe’s Home Improvements was approved earlier this year for a large remodeling project which we expect to happen in 2023.
The project is focused on converting the drive-thru into a unique “wrap around twice”, dual lane setup which will remove the long-standing use of windows to pay for and receive food! They will also include a small building expansion to make the kitchen area larger.
Chick-fil-A will also be expanding the parking area’s footprint within the property to accommodate the space needed for the changes.
Once completed, to use the Deptford drive-thru you will drive around the building… TWICE! More on that below.
The core reason for the upgrade is the popularity of the fast-food chicken restaurant and the backups experienced at the drive-thru due to a growing customer base.
While the Deptford CBR store does not have a direct entrance from Clements Bridge Road, the drive-thru traffic can back up into the common shopping center traffic lanes and out onto the main Gloucester County operated Clements Bridge Road!
I experienced this pain a few years ago when simply trying to go to Lowe’s, and as I was making the turn into the shopping center the cars ahead of me decided to just sit and wait for the drive-thru to advance so they could turn left into Chick-fil-A! Cars quickly moved in behind me and I was trapped!
Needless to say the many minutes wait left me more than frustrated! I didn’t even want to go to Chick-fil-A at that time!
And that was BEFORE the pandemic of 2020/2021 made the use of drive-thru ordering even more popular!
To their credit Chick-fil-A has implemented several temporary solutions including a partial dual-lane setup, at times, but they are looking to take the changes even further and make them permanent.
NOTE: the long ago approved IHOP restaurant for next to this Chick-fil-A is not coming folks. It’s been six years and people still ask for a status.
Keep scrolling and reading for more on the changes and the unique “twice around the park” drive-thru plan!
A “Happy Problem” for Chick-fil-A
I think we all realize this is not just a Deptford phenomenon.
Where they can, Chick-fil-A is developing restaurants on larger properties and accounting for longer dual lane drive-thrus.
An approved (but not developed) new Chick-fil-A in Cherry Hill’s Route 70 will be developed with a larger dual lane drive-thru.
More interestingly for us, the existing Mt Laurel Centerton Square store is currently in the middle of a similar remodel as what is planned for Deptford.
While I am not clear on the interior work that will be done in Deptford, over in Mt Laurel that store is a full “shut down for three months and basically build an all new store inside and out” transformation! More on that in a second! (Facebook)
And simple “Google” searches show that these changes are coming to Chick-fil-A restaurants all over the Country.
The Deptford Chick-fil-A Remodel
Finally on to the details of what is expected at Deptford.
True Dual Lanes: Two-lanes for drive-thrus are becoming more common in all fast food restaurants.
But with the other eateries while there are two lanes and menu boards for ordering, you still merge back into one lane to pay and receive your food, and honestly this just creates a bottleneck again (i.e. the McDonald’s at 5-Points Sewell)
With the Chick-fil-A model for Deptford NJ it remains two lanes all the way around. Even when paying and picking up your food!
So how will they do that? It brings up thoughts of a toll-booth setup like at the bridge, or maybe those bank vacuum tube things! Nope! Hang with me…
Ordering (Canopy): Well this is mostly standard.
Previously the order menu board was at the back of the store. The ordering will now take place on the side (the Lowe’s side). That extra spacing to the payment area will give them more time to prepare your order.
As expected there will be two lanes and two menu boards with speakers for ordering. Easy peasy, common-sense.
One nice addition in this area though is they will have a full roof canopy over this section so that when you roll down your window to order, Mother Nature isn’t raining down on you and into your car.
You then will continue around the back of the restaurant and work around to the other side….remaining in separate lanes the entire time. No merging of lanes!
Paying and Getting Food (Canopy): So this is where things start to get interesting. Part 1.
There will be no windows for the cashiers or to get food. They will be replacing them with a DOOR! WHAT?!
So to make the dual-lane idea carry all the way through and to maximize the drive-thru output… Chick-fil-A workers will be outside with the cars to take payment and deliver food.
Which is where the door comes into play. You stay in the comfort warmth of your car (or coolness, depending on the season) and the Chick-fil-A employees will walk your food out to your car. And having a properly positioned door will make this easier for everyone.
And this is how they can support that second outer lane. Employees will just walk over to your car.
And yes there will be a second canopy on this side of the building to protect customers and the employees from the weather.
So the first stage improvements are targeted at moving customers out faster. With two lanes all the way through, they should significantly increase the number of cars they can serve per hour.
But that isn’t all. They’ve also come up with an innovative way to support more cars within the property’s drive-thru space.
Twice Around The Park and Home, James
With a limited property size which was created before the world knew that Chick-fil-A was going to be the most popular drive-thru of them all, engineers in 2022 had to come up with a creative solution.
Drivers will wrap around the building… TWICE!
First off, the property will be wider to accommodate the permanent dual-lanes, a third lane for cars driving through the lot, and of course parking.
So you’ll still enter and exit the property from the exact same place as you do now.
But today you can drive into the property and go directly to the ordering lane on that same side of the building.
With the new plan (after the full remodel) you will drive all the way around the the building first, to the other side (driving around the back) and enter the drive -thru lanes from the other side.
In my colorized image above, you will enter and exit at the same place you do today, but if you follow the green line and purple arrows, cars will essentially move around the building twice.
Unique but it gives a ton of extra space for cars heading to the drive-through without backing up traffic outside of the property.
With the longer drive-thru run, the engineers estimate that the car capacity of the dual-lanes is 37 cars! Literally wrapping around the entire building.
Plus there is a small single lane before the dual-lanes start which supports another 5 cars. 42 cars total.
And We’re Not Done! Tell Them What Else They’ve Won!
The 42 car capacity lanes starts on the other side of the property entrance (as shown in the image above).
When you enter the property with your car you have to drive all the way around the back of the building on the pass-through lane and enter the drive-thru lanes on the other side before coming back around again.
Which means there is still that entire third “pass-through” lane for cars to back up into.
Now let’s be clear, it is not the intent of Chick-fil-A for that to happen. If things backed up more than 42 cars then the line would start impacting cars that are in parking spaces.
And honestly who wants to be 40 cars back in a drive-thru anyway?
But the point of this is… IF the lane does back up even further beyond 42 cars, they still have a long way to go before it backs up into the core shopping center and Clements Bridge Road.
The odds of that happening seems so very slim. I mean, even if the ordering process slowed down immensely or one of the menu board speakers broke, it’s still a long way before traffic backs up out of the Chick-fil-A property.
Expansion and Interior Remodel
There will also be two small additions to the building.
A small 30 sq ft area will be added on where the new door will be installed for employees to bring your food out.
Also a 580 sq ft addition at the back of the building will support a kitchen expansion. I would think this is also targeted at preparing food faster and in larger quantities, to move customers through faster.
So I did not attend the Deptford Planning Board meeting this summer so I didn’t hear the full extent of what is planned for store remodel.
But we already described two additions and one that impacts the kitchen so we can imagine big changes there.
But we also have the Mt Laurel store to look at, which also includes similar small building additions and drive-thru changes.
At the Mt Laurel store Facebook page they are doing a great job sharing construction progress photos of their similar remodeling and…
… well they are literally building a new restaurant within the walls. In Mt Laurel they have gutted the place, taking it down to the bare studs.
The most recent post shows they even replaced the HVAC system.
It seems it is a 3 month long project for that location to be closed (not open yet)
So while I don’t know the details for the Deptford project, the plans do seems somewhat similar… Well we’ll have to see.
Timing? I asked a few people and seems they haven’t locked that in yet.
I also see that just last week a new (local) family took over the Operator/Owner role at the Deptford CBR store, so I don’t know if that is an impact on timing.
Links and Location
1480 Clements Bridge Rd
Deptford NJ 08096