Chick-Fil-A has a grand total of one – count ’em, ONE – store in Michigan. One store in New York. One store in Washington. One store each in New Hampshire, Washington D.C., Wisconsin and Wyoming. Chick-Fil-A doesn’t have any stores at all in Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Maine, Connecticut, Vermont or either of the Dakotas. That doesn’t seem to be slowing them down. Chick-Fil-A recently passed longtime fast food heavyweight KFC in chicken sales, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report.
Chick-Fil-A’s sales topped $5 billion in 2013 compared to $4.2 billion for rival KFC. Their stores averaged a 3.6 percent increase in sales over the prior year compared with a 2 percent decrease for KFC. Chick-Fil-A per-store sales more than triple that of KFC restaurants, explaining the success of a restaurant that people in many parts of the country might never have heard of if it hadn’t been for negative media attention drawn to Chick-Fil-A owner Dan Cathy’s Christian faith and personal views on homosexual marriage.
So, how does a restaurant that closes on Sunday – traditionally one of the better business days in the restaurant industry – outpace the longstanding king of fast food chicken with fewer than half the stores, hostile policies in some of the country’s more liberal metropolitan areas and little or no market in most northern states?
A number of reasons have been suggested for Chick-Fil-A’s success. One is that the chicken chain’s menu features unique items that set it apart from the competition. In addition to the chicken sandwich and waffle fries that are Chick-Fil-A’s bread and butter, they also offer wraps, salads and milkshake varieties that can’t be found at other fast food places, including peach and cookies and cream. Others suggest it is Chick-Fil-A’s breakfast menu, which raised sales by 3.6 percent last year, according to a Business Insider report.
Chick-Fil-A also benefits from having many of its locations on college campuses, in amusement parks and in other high traffic locations where people are often looking for a quick bite to eat.
A report in the Atlanta Times-Journal points out that some have even suggested that Cathy’s remarks and the media attention they drew actually helped spur the chicken chain to greater sales. Chick-Fil-A garnered positive attention by putting the owner’s Christian convictions into action by giving free chicken to protesters. They also benefitted from a counter-protest, “Chick-Fil-A appreciation day,” held by a combination of supporters of traditional marriage and those who were concerned that the backlash amounted to attempting to usurp Chick-Fil-A founder Dan Cathy’s right to free speech.
Whatever the reason, Chick-Fil-A is now the undisputed chicken champion of the United States, outselling KFC despite the fact that they aren’t even in all 50 states yet.