Chick-fil-A seeks new location, residents seek traffic solutions and diversity

A site plan for a new Chick-fil-A on Hugh Howell Road

Tucker, GA — Residents of Tucker may soon eat more chicken at a new Chick-fil-A on Hugh Howell Road, just blocks from the current location. About 25 residents of Rosser Terrace and surrounding streets met on May 25 when Chick-fil-A held a public participation meeting at the proposed site, 4435 Hugh Howell Road.

Bridgette Ganter of Bowman Consulting presented a site plan for a 4,978-sq. ft. restaurant with a dual lane drive-thru design “to serve guests as safely and efficiently as possible.” She said during the pandemic, the drive thru option at Chick-fil-A became more popular, causing the redesign of many properties.

“They’re looking for additional land to put new Chick-fil-As on so that they can have this configuration,” said Ganter. “If you’ve been to a Chick-fil-A recently, you’ve noticed there are multiple lanes, teams at the order point and teams at the pick-up point so nothing is done sequentially.”

Jennifer Santelli, principal development lead at Chick-fil-A, said innovations have been made inside the restaurant as well. Extensive studies show this model is more efficient and keeps traffic moving, she said.

But an uptick in efficiency did not sway residents who are worried about traffic bottle necking on Rosser Terrace, a dead-end street that borders the property. The current site plan shows a single entrance/exit on Rosser Terrace to access the restaurant and drive thru.

Rosser Terrace is a residential street without sidewalks. A traffic study in 2019 showed the street has 50% more traffic than its intended capacity and sees speeds up to 51 mph in a 25 mph zone. Resident Andy Wood has been working with a neighbor to petition DeKalb County for speed bumps, but the pandemic put a hold on his progress.

Several residents suggested repositioning the building and drive-thru lanes to accommodate an entrance on Hugh Howell Road, but Tucker zoning requires a buffer between commercial and residential buildings.

“I’m afraid kids are going to get run over because people are getting a Chick-fil-A and getting back to work,” said one woman.

“It sounds like it’s a problem now,” said Ganter, whose comment was met with clamoring agreement. “Maybe what we can do is help elevate this issue to the city.”

Allison White said she has not eaten at Chick-fil-A in 10 years because of the company’s corporate support of charities with anti-LGBTQ stances.

“There could be some improvements in your overall diversity,” said Allison White, pointing to her rainbow mask. “I’m interested in what particularly, in my neighborhood, is going to make me as a gay person feel accepted, and what you’re doing to cultivate diversity.”

Chick-fil-A’s answer: If this is a diverse community, that will be reflected at the restaurant.

“At the end of the day, we are a hospitality company that serves chicken … We really want people to come in and feel respected and feel they are valued as a person,” said Santelli.

White added, “I would like to come back to Chick-fil-A. I know tons of my friends and family would like to come back into your restaurant. But everyone has to feel included.”

Chick-fil-A owner Brad Spratte answered White from a few rows over, “Come see me.”

Chick-fil-A is now located Hugh Howell Road and Lawrenceville Highway, but Spratte said the kitchen is inefficient and parking lot is small.

“We won’t ever have cars on Rosser Terrace because they can’t get in because of the stack and because of the efficiency of the drive thru,” he said of the larger proposed site.

Courtney Smith, Director of Planning and Zoning, said next steps for Chick-fil-A include writing a report, working on the rest of the application materials and applying for a SLUP. Tucker Planning Commission will hear a presentation, followed by City Council. The new location could open as early as spring 2022.

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