Why would anyone go to Chick-fil-A for a meal kit? The brand, taking its first dip into the chaotic meal kit business next week, seems to be banking on the idea that families will visit the restaurant for its signature fast-food chicken sandwiches and then pick up a kit for dinner that night, or the next day. But that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what fast food is all about: instant gratification. If we thought ahead about anything at all when eating fast food - like our waistlines or our longevity - those trips through the drive-through might seem a lot harder to justify. When you eat fast food, you're probably not thinking ahead to your next meal. You're just carpe diem-ing the heck out of some waffle fries.
Nevertheless, Chick-fil-A will offer its first meal kits in Atlanta-area restaurants beginning Aug. 27, before potentially expanding nationwide. The kits serve two and cost $15.89. And - bad news: If you were expecting a take-home version of Chick-fil-A's famous fried chicken and pickle sandwiches, you'll be really disappointed. Instead, the kits provide the templates for other meals starring the company's signature ingredient. I tried the chicken Parmesan kit, one of five kits that will be offered in select restaurants. Other choices include chicken enchiladas, Dijon chicken, pan-roasted chicken and chicken flatbread.
The first thing you will notice when you open the box is that there is a lot of plastic. Companies like Blue Apron have been trying to cut down on their packaging waste by commingling certain types of produce in paper bags, but the memo hasn't reached Chick-fil-A: Nearly every component, except for a lemon, came in a plastic pouch.
But the kit was quicker and easier to cook than Blue Apron. That's because much of the food had already been precooked. There were no sauces to make and barely any vegetables to chop - and I didn't even have to boil water for the pasta, which had already been prepared. It's more comparable to Gobble, the start-up that recently partnered with Walmart, and which also precooks parts of its meals. But because Chick-fil-A is not shipping its kits, its price is lower than many competitors: Gobble's price-per-serving is $11.99, and Blue Apron's is between $8.99 and $9.99, compared with Chick-fil-A's $7.95.
It all took about 30 minutes: I coated pre-marinated chicken in yogurt and Parmesan panko breadcrumbs, and browned it in a pan before topping it with marinara and mozzarella and finishing it on a sheet pan in the oven. Then I chopped broccolini and grape tomatoes and tossed them in the pan with the pasta, Alfredo sauce, a bit of water and a squeeze of lemon.
It was, I swear to you, delicious. We all marveled at how surprisingly good it was. Then we looked at the nutrition facts and realized that we had each consumed 77 percent of our recommended daily allowance of saturated fat, and 74 percent of our daily sodium. The ingredient list was novella-length, and packed with preservatives - though a news release proudly points out that, as in Chick-fil-A restaurants, none of the chicken contains antibiotics.
Regret set in, as did thirst. We spent the rest of the afternoon chugging water and feeling vaguely puffy. I thought ahead to my next meal. It would definitely be a salad.
This article was written by Maura Judkis, a reporter for The Washington Post.