A Chick-fil-A store in Morristown, Tennessee
|Founded||May 23, 1946 (as Dwarf Grill)|
Hapeville, Georgia, U.S.
|Founder||S. Truett Cathy|
Number of locations
|Products||Sandwiches, chicken dishes|
|Revenue||US$10.5 billion (2018)|
Chick-fil-A ( chik-fil-AY, a play on the American English pronunciation of fillet) is one of the largest American fast food restaurant chains and the largest whose specialty is chicken sandwiches. Its headquarters are in College Park, Georgia. Chick-fil-A was originally founded as the Dwarf Grill in 1946, changing the name to 'Dwarf House' until rebranding as Chick-fil-A in 1967. The company operates more than 2,300 restaurants, primarily in the United States with locations in 47 states and plans for a location in Hawaii to be the 48th state. The restaurant serves breakfast before transitioning to its lunch and dinner menu. Chick-fil-A also offers customers catered selections from its menu for special events.
Many of the company's values are influenced by the religious beliefs of its late founder, S. Truett Cathy, a devout Southern Baptist. All Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed for business on Sundays, as well as on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The company's stance in opposition to same-sex marriage has been the subject of public controversy.
The chain's origin can be traced to the Dwarf Grill (now the Dwarf House), a restaurant opened by S. Truett Cathy, the chain's former chairman and CEO, in 1946. The restaurant is located in Hapeville, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, and is near the location of the now-demolished Ford Motor Company Atlanta Assembly Plant, for many years a source of many of the restaurant's patrons.
In 1961, after 15 years in the fast food business, Cathy found a pressure-fryer that could cook the chicken sandwich in the same amount of time it took to cook a fast-food hamburger. Following this discovery, he registered the name Chick-fil-A, Inc. The company's trademarked slogan, "We Didn't Invent the Chicken, Just the Chicken Sandwich," refers to their flagship menu item, the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.
Since 1997, the Atlanta-based company has been the title sponsor of the Peach Bowl, an annual college football bowl game played in Atlanta on New Year's Eve. Chick-fil-A also is a key sponsor of the SEC and the ACC of college athletics.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the chain expanded by opening new locations in suburban malls' food courts. The first freestanding location was opened April 16, 1986, on North Druid Hills Road in Atlanta, Georgia, and the company began to focus more on this stand-alone type unit rather than on the food court type. Although it has expanded outward from its original geographic base, most new restaurants are located in Southern suburban areas.
In 2008, Chick-fil-A became the first fast-food restaurant to become completely trans-fat free.
On December 17, 2017, Chick-fil-A broke their tradition and opened on a Sunday to prepare meals for passengers left stranded during the power outage at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and on January 13, 2019, a Chick-fil-A franchise in Mobile, Alabama opened on Sunday to honor a birthday wish of a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and autism.
Chick-fil-A's business strategy involves a focus on a simple menu and on good customer service. While other fast food chains often expand their menu offerings to attempt to attract new customers, Chick-fil-A's business model is to remain focused on chicken sandwiches. The name capital A is meant to indicate that their chicken is "grade A top quality". In addition, an emphasis on customer service has allowed Chick-fil-A to consistently lead the fast food industry in customer satisfaction. These factors are seen as the reason for Chick-fil-A's growth and expansion in the United States.
Chick-fil-A retains ownership of each restaurant. Chick-fil-A selects the restaurant location and builds it. Chick-fil-A franchisees need only a $10,000 initial investment to become an operator. Each operator is handpicked and goes through a rigorous training program; the interviews plus training can take months and is not an easy process. Chick-fil-A states on their site:
"This is not the right opportunity for you if you:
S. Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist; his religious beliefs had a major impact on the company. The company's official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."
Their website states, "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our Restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."
The founder's beliefs are responsible for the chain's most well-known and distinctive feature: all Chick-fil-A locations (both corporate owned and franchised) are closed on Sundays, as well as on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cathy states as the final step in his Five-Step recipe for Business Success "I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities. One of the most visible examples of this is our decision to close on Sunday. Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business."
In an interview with ABC News's Nightline, Truett's son Dan T. Cathy told reporter Vicki Mabrey that the company is also closed on Sundays because "by the time Sunday came, he was just worn out. And Sunday was not a big trading day, anyway, at the time. So he was closed that first Sunday and we've been closed ever since. He figured if he didn't like working on Sundays, that other people didn't either." The younger Cathy also quoted his father as saying, "I don't want to ask people to do that what I am not willing to do myself."
Chick-fil-A's Sunday closures extend to non-traditional locations. In addition to countless shopping malls and airports, a Chick-fil-A location at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is closed on Sundays despite the fact that its main tenant, the Atlanta Falcons, plays most of their home games on Sundays. The location is open when the Falcons have a Monday night, Thursday night or Saturday home game, as well as non-Sunday home games of Atlanta United FC and other events at the stadium. The Chick-fil-A remained closed for Super Bowl LIII. On Sundays, the digital signs are flipped and concessionaire Levy Restaurants sell nonbranded food and drinks at the location.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), antibiotics used in livestock, many of which are also used to treat humans, have contributed to the rise of dangerous bacteria. In December 2012, the FDA announced plans to phase out certain antibiotics in the food production industry.
In February 2014, Chick-fil-A announced plans to serve chicken raised without antibiotics in its restaurants nationwide within five years. Chick-fil-A is the first quick service restaurant to set forth a plan and commit to serving only poultry raised without antibiotics.
In 2011, food blogger and activist Vani Hari wrote a post titled "Chick-fil-A or Chemical Fil-A?" on her website, FoodBabe.com. She noted that Chick-fil-A sandwiches contained nearly 100 ingredients, including peanut oil with TBHQ. In October 2012, Chick-fil-A invited Hari to meet with company executives at its Atlanta, GA headquarters. In December 2013, Chick-fil-A notified Hari that it had eliminated the dye Yellow No. 5 and had reduced the sodium content in its chicken soup. The company also said that it is testing a peanut oil that does not contain TBHQ and that it would start testing sauces and dressings made without high-fructose corn syrup in 2014.
In September 1994, Chick-fil-A opened its first location outside of the United States inside a student center food court at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This location did not perform very well and was closed within two or three years. The company returned to the province of Alberta by opening an outlet at the Calgary International Airport in Calgary in May 2014. This restaurant closed in 2019.
In July 2018, Chick-fil-A announced plans to expand within Canada by opening a new restaurant in Toronto, Ontario, in 2019. That location opened on 6 September 2019 in the Yonge and Bloor Street area with protesters criticizing the violation of animal rights and the company's "history of supporting anti-LGBTQ causes". Chick-fil-A announced that it would open two others in Toronto during 2019, and 12 additional stores in the Greater Toronto Area over the subsequent five years.
In August 1996, Chick-fil-A opened its first location outside of North America by building a restaurant in Durban, South Africa. A second location was opened in Johannesburg in November 1997. Since none of the South African locations were profitable, all of these locations were closed by 2001.
A Chick-fil-A operated in Edinburgh during Spring 2018. On October 10, 2019, Chick-fil-A returned to Europe, with the opening of a store at The Oracle shopping centre in Reading, UK. The store is set to close after The Oracle opted not to continue the lease of the location beyond the six-month pilot period in the face of continued protests over the chain's anti-LGBTQ stance.
"Eat Mor Chikin" is the chain's most prominent advertising slogan, created by The Richards Group in 1995. The slogan is often seen in advertisements, featuring Holstein dairy cows that are often seen wearing (or holding) signs that (usually) read: "Eat Mor Chikin" in all capital letters. The ad campaign was temporarily halted during a mad cow disease scare on January 1, 2004, so as not to make the chain seem insensitive or appear to be taking advantage of the scare to increase its sales. Two months later, the cows were put up again. The cows replaced the chain's old mascot, Doodles, an anthropomorphized chicken who still appears as the C on the logo.
Chick-fil-A vigorously protects its intellectual property, sending cease and desist letters to those they think have infringed on their trademarks. The corporation has successfully protested at least 30 instances of the use of an "eat more" phrase, saying that the use would cause confusion of the public, dilute the distinctiveness of their intellectual property, and diminish its value.
A 2011 letter to Vermont artist Bo Muller-Moore who screen prints T-shirts reading: "Eat More Kale" demanded that he cease printing the shirts and turn over his website. The incident drew criticism from Vermont governor Peter Shumlin, and created backlash against what he termed Chick-fil-A's "corporate bullying." On December 11, 2014, Bo Muller-Moore announced that the U.S. Patent Office granted his application to trademark his "Eat More Kale" phrase. A formal announcement of his victory took place on December 12, 2014, with Shumlin and other supporters on the Statehouse steps. His public fight drew regional and national attention, the support of Shumlin, and a team of pro-bono law students from the University of New Hampshire legal clinic.
After 22 years with The Richards Group, Chick-fil-A switched to McCann New York in 2016. Along with the cows, ads included famous people in history in a campaign called "Chicken for Breakfast. It's not as crazy as you think."
Chick-fil-A has donated over $5 million, via WinShape, to groups that oppose same-sex marriage. Of this, more than $3 million was donated primarily to Christian organizations whose agendas included positions that oppose same-sex marriage, with the money donated between 2003 and 2009. A total of $1.9 million was donated in 2010 to groups such as the Marriage & Family Foundation, Exodus International, and the Family Research Council (FRC). WinShape has also contributed to Christian groups including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Exodus International, the latter of which is noted for supporting ex-gay conversion therapy. In response, students at several colleges and universities worked to ban or remove the company's restaurants from their campuses. On January 28, 2013, Shane L. Windmeyer, the leader of Campus Pride, suspended their campaign.
In January 2011, the media reported that Chick-fil-A was co-sponsoring a marriage conference with the Pennsylvania Family Institute (PFI), an organization that has opposed same-sex marriage legislation. Chick-fil-A clarified that "one of our independent Restaurant Operators in Pennsylvania was asked to provide sandwiches to two Art of Marriage video seminars". The WinShape Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Truett and his wife, also stated that it would not allow same-sex couples to participate in its marriage retreats.
In June and July 2012, Chick-fil-A's chief operating officer Dan T. Cathy made several public statements about same-sex marriage, saying that those who "have the audacity to define what marriage is about" were "inviting God's judgment on our nation". Several prominent politicians expressed disapproval.Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno said they hoped to block franchise expansion into their areas. The proposed bans drew criticism from liberal pundits, legal experts, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The Jim Henson Company, which had a Pajanimals kids' meal toy licensing arrangement with Chick-fil-A, said it would cease its business relationship, and donate the payment to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Chick-fil-A stopped distributing the toys, claiming that unrelated safety concerns had arisen prior to the controversy. Chick-fil-A released a statement on July 31, 2012, saying, "We are a restaurant company focused on food, service, and hospitality; our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
In response to the controversy, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee initiated a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day movement to counter a boycott of Chick-fil-A launched by same-sex marriage activists.
In September 2012, The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) announced that Chick-fil-A had "ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights". This change in policy was not confirmed by Chick-fil-A officials. Chick-fil-A officials did state in an internal document that they "will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation". In a letter from Chick-fil-A's Senior Director of Real Estate, the company states, "The WinShape Foundation is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas."
According to Chicago Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno, Chick-fil-A included a statement of respect for all people regardless of sexual orientation in an internal document called Chick-fil-A: Who We Are. A document released by Chick-fil-A on September 20, 2012 did not mention any organizations opposed to same-sex marriage as being part of Chick-fil-A's donation base. WinShape Marriage will continue to be supported financially, with a stated focus on couple retreats to strengthen marriages.
According to Focus on the Family's website, CitizenLink.com, "Chick-fil-A and its charitable-giving arm, the WinShape Foundation, did not agree to stop making donations to groups that support the Biblical definition of marriage in exchange for being allowed to open a franchise in Chicago." Also in September 2012, Huckabee stated that he "talked earlier today personally with Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, about the new reports that Chick-fil-A had capitulated to demands of the supporters of same-sex marriage. This is not true. The company continues to focus on the fair treatment of all of its customers and employees, but to end confusion gave me this statement". The statement provided by Chick-fil-A was posted on Huckabee's website.
In a November 18, 2019, interview, Chick-fil-A President Tim Tassopoulos said the company would stop donating to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, two charities that have been criticized by LGBT advocates. The company instead intends to donate to other charities--whether faith-based or not--focused on education, homelessness and hunger. Later that day, Chick-fil-A would not clarify whether it intended to stop donating to anti-LGBT causes.
Truett Cathy opened his first restaurant, The Dwarf Grill - later renamed the Dwarf House - in Hapeville, Georgia, in 1946, and developed the pressure-cooked chicken breast sandwich there. At the original Chick-fil-A Dwarf Grill, in addition to the full-size entrances, there is also an extra small-sized front door. The original Dwarf House in Hapeville, Georgia is open 24 hours a day, six days a week, except on Sundays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The store closes at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday nights, and the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas and reopens at 6 a.m. on Monday mornings and day after Thanksgiving and Christmas. It has a larger dine-in menu than the other Dwarf House locations as well as an animated seven dwarfs display in the back of the restaurant. It was across the street from the former Ford Motor Company factory called Atlanta Assembly.
Truett's original, full-service restaurants offer a substantial menu and provide customers a choice of table service, walk-up counter service or a drive-thru window. As of 2012, 13 Chick-fil-A Dwarf House restaurants were operating in the metro Atlanta area.
In 1996, the first Truett's Grill was opened in Morrow, Georgia. The second location opened in 2003 in McDonough, Georgia, and a third location opened in 2006 in Griffin, Georgia. Similar to the Chick-fil-A Dwarf Houses, these independently owned restaurants offer traditional, sit-down dining and expanded menu selections in a diner-themed dinner. In 2017, Chick-fil-A demolished several Dwarf House locations to replace them with Truett's Grill locations.
Headquarters Chick-fil-A, Inc. 5200 Buffington Road Atlanta, GA 30349-2998
Chick-fil-A's reliably impressive customer service scores have played a major role in the chain's explosive growth
In another new venture, Chick-fil-A will open its first Canadian outlet on Sept. 8 in the student center food court at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The unit, which will serve a limited menu, will be run under a license agreement by the Canadian company Versa Services.Alternate link via NewsBank.
Chick-fil-A Inc. will open its first restaurant outside North America in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, next month. The Atlanta-based company said it granted DanCor Investments Pty Ltd., a family-owned South African company, exclusive rights to develop and operate 50 stores in southern Africa, of which 20 to 30 will be built in South Africa. Danie van den Heever, DanCor's founder and chairman, was named chief executive of Chick-fil-A Southern Africa, a new company formed to hold and operate the chicken franchise.Alternate Link via NewsBank.
The company, founded in 1946 by Cathy's father, S. Truett Cathy, has also come under fire for donating more than $3million between 2003 and 2009 to Christian organisations with a well-known anti-gay agenda, among them the Marriage & Family Foundation and the Family Research Council.
WinShape is the vehicle through which Chick-fil-A, and by extension the Cathys, have made about $5 million of donations to anti-gay marriage groups since 2003, with $1.9 million of that donated in 2010 to outfits including the Family Research Council and Marriage & Family Foundation. They've written checks to Exodus International, which is famous for "ex-gay" conversion therapy, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose website includes a testimonial from a coach "delivered" from homosexuality.