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Chik-Fil-A Pushes Data-Driven Management

A bunch of vegetables laid out for eating.

Data is what drives a lot of decisions, helping you select between options more easily. These decisions do not need to be static, or one sided, but can be dynamic and ever changing.For example, you may use your cellphone to navigate or to call for a ride-sharing vehicle, but what you do not realize is that the cellphone is just one of the many sources of information which can be used in unlimited ways – for Chick-Fil-A growth, it is used for their franchise strategy.

Riding on the Wave of Progress

One example of digital transformation using data is the way Chick-fil-A’s bold move in its decision-making process. Specifically, it has help from Esri’s geographic information system called ArcGIS. This is the GIS platform Chick-fil-A uses in determining store locations.

The collection of data itself is unobtrusive; what needs creativity is in coming up with ways to use that data to improve services, and even the timing of these services.

Chick-fil-A is a privately-owned and operated food chain which started in 1967. It now has 2,200 branches and adds 90 to 100 new stores per year. It is iconic in that it is not open on Sundays due to the company’s convictions. It also has a restriction on its franchisees being allowed to only have one store.

In terms of size, Chick-fil-A may not look very impressive. As of 2015, McDonald’s has more than 14,000 branches in North America, Subway has more than 27,000 stores and Starbucks has more than 12,000 shops. However, Chick-fil-A has found itself as one of the country’s fastest growing restaurant chains.

What recently changed was the way the company makes decisions on new store locations. Before they started using ArcGIS data, the decision-making process involved maps, printouts from Google Maps, as well as email communications. They have done away with the old process as ArcGIS allows them the flexibility to work as a team, providing access to data for those who need the information.


The way Chick-fil-A uses data is not just as an offshoot of an off-the-shelf application. They have taken the lead in creating their own applications with the data from the GIS. These allow them to create ad hoc applications, as well as established decision making and reporting tools which they can navigate to with a single click.

Their use of data has allowed them to see markets more clearly. Due to these innovations, they recently opened two stores in New York City, including one near the Rockefeller Center. They are also due to open their largest store yet in New York’s Financial District.

More Companies Using GIS for Data

Other companies have different uses for GIS data. This could include regular flow of people, or even seasonal choices in beverages. In some cases, correlations between weather events and buying patterns could be discerned and used to promote products. The collection of data itself is unobtrusive; what needs creativity is in coming up with ways to use that data to improve services, and even the timing of these services.

For Chick-fil-A, there are unique challenges in choosing a new store location. Since a person or corporate franchisee can only have one store, finding a location near existing stores can be a tricky proposition. For another, the company itself is based in the south of the U.S., and only lately has it been making bold moves to expand in the northern part of the country. It has either opened new stores or is planning to open stores in locations as diverse as McKinney in Texas, Las Cruces in New Mexico, Salisbury in Maryland, Puyallup in Washington state, and Englewood in Colorado.

Expect the company to do more with their data than just planning for new stores in the years to come.

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