How does Chick-fil-A decide which items to add to its menu?

The Chick-fil-A on Jimmy Carter Boulevard is testing a new restaurant-run delivery program, a spokesperson for the company said. (Photo: Tom Pennington, Getty Images)

You may have come across our mouthwatering list of items no longer on Chick-fil-A's national menu, like the spicy chicken biscuit or cinnamon clusters. But have you ever wondered what exactly leads up to the Georgia-based chain's decision to add or remove menu items?

Amanda Norris, executive director of Chick-fil-A's menu, recently told Business Insider about the five-step strategy behind the chain's decision-making.

Norris said it takes about 18-24 months for a new idea to actually make it to restaurants. With help from Atlanta chef Ford Fry, the folks at Chick-fil-A look around the country for inspiration. This first step of inception, Norris told Insider, is grounded in understanding.

Step two is where imagination comes into play. Without worrying about the final product, Chick-fil-A considers “a blueprint of sorts” and “runs these ideas by customers,” Insider reported. At this stage, up to 50 imaginative options might be considered simultaneously.

Chick-fil-A's recent reveal that it may be exploring vegan options, for example, is part of this second stage.

Next, Norris told Insider, comes prototype development. Once the chain has a feel for how customers respond to certain products in the “imagine” stage, the restaurant begins creating prototypes for testing. If there are 50 options in the previous stage, they might create 20 prototypes during development.

After prototypes are developed, they go through validation and testing. At this fourth stage, customers might test a potential menu item in select stores.

“Essentially, we try to think about different geographical areas, different concept types, different sales volumes because we really want to get a feel for ... does it sell well in New York? Does it sell well in Atlanta? How about out in LA?” Norris told the site.

For example, the restaurant recently experimented with its Spicy Chick-n-Strips by initially rolling out the item in Philadelphia and Texas, and later in Phoenix.

"We only see it growing — just looking at just what we sell in our spicy sandwich," Norris said earlier this month. "So, I think you're going to see Chick-fil-A do more with spicy."

And finally, we're at the launch stage. But according to Norris, the rollout process doesn't just immediately follow testing. Sometimes there are tweaks to be made. After all, "Something sort of has to earn its place on the menu," she said.