Erath County’s favorite chicken place since the award began in 1997 will soon be changing the way it does business.

Six hundred pieces of “bone-in” chicken and 200 gallons of tea pass over the lips of Stephenville residents daily from Chicken Express, and according to owner Steve Mitcham, construction of an order taking speaker window is in progress and expected to be completed in four to six weeks.

Chicken Express has been unique in the fact that an employee comes out of the building to a vehicle and takes the customer’s order face to face. The same employee then returns to deliver the order, collect payment and then returns again with change.

Mitcham says all of that is changing, and it will be for the benefit of the customer who will receive faster, better and more accurate service.

Mitcham said he has successfully implemented the new system at his Granbury store and the customers there who thought they might not like it actually love it. And at the same time, store sales have increased anywhere from 20 to 40 percent.

“This system is faster and it’s something I’ve thought about for a long time,” Mitcham said. “Customers will order at the speaker window, pay and receive their change immediately. Once you pay - you get drinks there — put it in drive to go to the next window and they will be walking around to meet you with your food.”

Mitcham said the Stephenville store is the “crown jewel of all the Chicken Express restaurants.”

He said when he attends a meeting, “The Stephenville store is used as an example of how to do it right.” And up until he started the new system, the Stephenville store had always been the No. 1 selling store out of the 150-store chain, with Granbury being the No. 2 store.

“Stephenville will be back at No. 1 as soon as the new system is started,” Mitcham said.

Mitcham said it will actually be a “marriage of the two systems,” because if cars begin to “stack up, we’ll still come outside.”

Mitcham said mistakes on orders will also be cut down.

“We’ve always depended on the memories of the employee and 99 percent of the time they get it right,” Mitcham said. “Sometimes a mistake is made in something as simple as leaving off a pepper. We will cut down on that type of mistake substantially.”

Another consideration for Mitcham was the safety of the employees. He feels with the new system the potential for accidents will be lessened.

Mitcham said he believes Stephenville residents will like the system and his ultimate goal is service but “If people don’t like it we’ll go back to the old way.”

Manager Justin Hankins said the dining room is also being expanded by 500 square feet and will be able to seat 30 to 40 additional people.

“I’m looking forward to the changes,” Hankins said.

“We’ll do no less than the best service in town,” Mitcham said. “We’ve got great management and employees in Stephenville and I appreciate how the people there have always supported us. They are great.”

Mitcham owns nine stores and will implement the system next in Glen Rose.