Chick-fil-A is set to open its largest location ever in the heart of New York CIty's financial district. The company unveiled plans for the massive, five-story, 12,000-square foot franchise at 144 Fulton Street, its third in Manhattan after branching out from Midtown. Designing a restaurant of that size isn't easy; finding a way to incorporate it into the densely packed skyscrapers of Manhattan is another story entirely, and one that presented Chick-fil-A with some never-before-seen obstacles -- along with some surprising innovations.
As Nathaniel Cates, design manager for restaurant development at Chick-fil-A, said in a press release, "We pushed ourselves to break into new ways of thinking and try innovative solutions we've never implemented before. We are always thinking about how to make the dining experience feel as comfortable as possible for our customers."
Though the 12,000-square-foot store is Chick-fil-A's largest, it's also by far the narrowest, at just 15 feet -- yes, 15 feet -- wide.
That's where the store's unique, five-level design is key. Two levels are dedicated to food preparation and kitchen space, with three levels of dining area able to seat 140 customers. A signature monumental staircase -- the first built for a Chick-fil-A restaurant -- will span from the fourth level to the ground floor, accentuated by a skylight.
"A huge, white wall also extends along the staircase to reflect light down from the top floor to the ground floor," Cates said. "This entire feature brightens the space and nicely creates an illusion of space."
Since there's no upstairs tenant, the Fulton Street Chick-fil-A will also offer diners a rooftop terrace with unimpeded views of Freedom Tower.
"The Fulton Street metro station is right next door to the restaurant, and no one will ever build on top of it," he said. "That means our guests will always have the same views of Freedom Tower. That was another advantage of the building that we were grateful to have."
On the top floor, another Chick-fil-A first, a multi-purpose, semi-private section of the dining room can be set up white whiteboards and cork boards for group trainings or corporate meetings. Unlike Chick-fil-A's other two Manhattan stores, located on corners, at 37th and 6th and 46 and 6th, the new location stands in the middle of a city block, making the space naturally darker.
However, the Fulton Street team found a way to best utilize the available natural light, with floor-to-ceiling windows on each level and, a rarity in mid-block buildings, skylights, which are found in just three of Chick-fil-A's more than 2,100 U.S. stores.
"There were a couple things benefiting us - first, there's an open courtyard behind the building, and second, we have no tenants upstairs," Cates said. "We took advantage of the courtyard by adding a large window in the back of the restaurant, and since Chick-fil-A has the whole building, we brought in natural light through a skylight."