By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News
FLORENCE, S.C. — For more than five years, the Chick-fil-A drive-thru at Magnolia Mall has been pushing to become a full-service, sit-down restaurant. On Jan. 24, that vision became a reality.
Last week, Chick-fil-A got approval to begin construction on a new 5,000-square-foot restaurant to be built across from the original.
Blake Pate, store owner and operator of the Chick-fil-A at 2705 David H McLeod Blvd., took over the restaurant in June of 2017.
Blake’s father, David, was the original operator of Chick-fil-A in Florence and retired in May of 2017.
“This was Chick-fil-A’s concept when the drive-thru was built back in the mid-1990s,” Pate said. “Chick-fil-A was growing, but not at the capacity that we are now. Dad, who had a location inside the mall, saw that there was a spot available and they moved on it. This really was originally built as a way to meet people’s needs outside of the mall to basically make it as fast and as convenient as possible.”
Pate said a lot has changed in the past two decades.
“Over time, Chick-fil-A’s mindset has evolved,” Pate said. “The service model we have today, we want to take care of people the best we can. I think most people understand that this building has kind of been outgrown. The idea has been to get out of this location, which is only about 1,500 square feet, and into a location that better serves our customers in a way that they’ve been accustomed to by being able to talk to guests and deliver meals.”
Chick-fil-A will remain open during the construction of the new building in February, March and part of April. The plan is for the drive-thru to close in April, as it is bulldozed to make way for a parking lot.
Pate said the current projection is for the new restaurant to reopen in June.
“Any time you put dates on it, people automatically assume,” Pate said. “It’s all subject to change depending on the weather and that’s the major hurdle for us. We’d like to get it done by then, but there can be some obstacles. We will keep people up to date on our social media accounts and do our best to relay information.”
Pate said the location for the Chick-fil-A next to Magnolia Mall and across the road from the Florence Center has been instrumental in the success of the restaurant.
Pate said the interstate also has been a factor in keeping the restaurant where it is as opposed to moving to a different location in Florence or the Pee Dee area.
“I think Chick-fil-A recognizes that this part of town is still growing,” Pate said. “Being right off the interstate is a major boon for us. Because of Florence’s location, we’re the halfway point for a lot of places. We’ve been here for a long time and we look forward to being here for a much longer time.”
Pate said he is excited for many groups of people to get to experience the new restaurant, including his employees, the customers and his father.
“He didn’t have the opportunity to have a “regular-type Chick-fil-A,” Pate said. “For him to finally be able to see it happen is amazing. I’m very excited for our employees, as well. Working in a drive-thru only restaurant is quite a challenge. We want to be able to provide the best service and that makes me excited for our customers. It’s something that’s going to be beneficial for all parties.”
For more information and updates, follow Chick-fil-A at Magnolia Mall’s Facebook page.