Chick-fil-A

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Chick-fil-A, Inc.
Type Private
Industry Restaurants
Founded Atlanta, Georgia, United States 1946
Headquarters College Park, Georgia, United States
Number of locations 1,600[1]
Key people Dan T. Cathy, Chairman, CEO
S. Truett Cathy chairman emeritus [2]
Products Sandwiches, chicken entrées
Revenue IncreaseUS$4.0 billion (2011)
Website chick-fil-a.com
A Chick-fil-A in the food court of The Galleria in Uptown Houston, Texas
A series of Chick-fil-A trucks at the Airport West Distribution Center
Chick-fil-A at Holcombe and Buffalo Speedway, Houston, Texas
Chick-fil-A headquarters in College Park, Georgia

Chick-fil-A is an American fast food restaurant chain headquartered in the Atlanta suburb of College Park, Georgia, specializing in chicken sandwiches.[3][4] Founded in 1946, it has been associated with the Southern United States, where it has become a cultural icon.[5] Chick-fil-A has over 1,700 restaurants in 38 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and is focusing future growth in the American Midwest, the Philippines, South Korea, Alberta,[citation needed] and Southern California.[6]

The company's culture is strongly influenced by its founder's Southern Baptist beliefs. Unlike most fast food restaurants and retail chain stores, all Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed for business on Sunday. In 2012, COO Dan Cathy's public statements in opposition to same-sex marriage became the subject of public controversy.

History[edit]

The chain's origin can be traced to the Dwarf Grill (now the Dwarf House, see below), 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,[3] 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.[7] Following this discovery, he registered the name Chick-fil-A, Inc. The company's current trademarked slogan, "We Didn't Invent the Chicken, Just the Chicken Sandwich," [8] refers to their flagship menu-item, the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.

Cathy initially called his creation a "chicken steak sandwich", but he wanted to create a more appealing name. Because the fillet is the best cut of beef, Cathy chose to call the chicken in his sandwiches a "fillet", hence the name "Chick-fil-A". The capital A is supposed to connote high quality.[9]

The first Chick-fil-A opened in 1967, in the food court of the Greenbriar Mall, in a suburb of Atlanta.[3] During the 1970s and early 1980s, the chain expanded by opening new franchises in suburban malls' food courts.[10] The first freestanding franchise was opened in 1986, and the company began to focus more on this type of franchise 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.[3] As of 2012, the chain has approximately 1000 stand-alone locations.[3] It also has 32 drive-through-only locations.[3] Chick-fil-A also can be found at universities, hospitals, and airports through licensing agreements.[3]

Since 1994, 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.[11][12]

Business model[edit]

Chick-fil-A uses a model significantly different from other restaurant franchises, notably in retaining ownership of each restaurant. Chick-fil-A selects the restaurant location, builds it and retains ownership. Whereas franchisees from competing chains pay almost $2 million up front to open a franchise, Chick-fil-A franchisees need only a $5,000 initial investment to become an operator.[1] The company gets 10,000–25,000 applications from potential franchise operators for 60–70 slots they open each year. Chick-fil-A gets a larger share of revenue from its franchises than other chains, but the formula works well for operators – franchisees make an average of $190,000 per year. In 2010 Chick-fil-A took the industry lead in average sales per restaurant, making an average of $2.7 million per restaurant in 2010 (McDonald's was second with $2.4 million per restaurant).[13]

Advertising[edit]

"Eat mor chikin" is the chain's most prominent advertising slogan, created by the The Richards Group in 1995. The slogan is often seen in advertisements, featuring cows that are often seen wearing (or holding) signs that [usually] read: "Eat mor chikin" in all capital letters. According to Chick-fil-A's advertising strategies, the cows have united in an effort to reform American food, in an effort to reduce the amount of beef that is eaten. They wish the American public to refrain from eating beef burgers, common at Chick-fil-A's competitors, such as McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's, and instead focus on eating chicken. 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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] The incident has drawn criticism from Vermont governor Peter Shumlin, and has created backlash against what he termed Chick-fil-A's "corporate bullying."[17]

[edit]

Distribution of Chick-fil-a stores in the U.S. by county.
Chick-fil-A Classic
The Chick-fil-A Classic is a high school basketball tournament held in Columbia, South Carolina.[18] The tournament is in its eighth year of operation, and features nationally ranked players, and teams.[19] The tournament is co-sponsored by the Greater Columbia Educational Advancement Foundation (GCEAF), which provides scholarships to high school seniors in the greater Columbia area.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl is a college football bowl game played each year in Atlanta, Georgia.
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game
The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is an annual early-season college football game played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. It features two highly ranked teams, one of which has always been from the Southeastern Conference. Starting with the 2012 season, the event will be expanded to two games.
Chick-fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America
The Chick-fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America is an annual charity motorcycle tour to raise money for, among other charities, the Victory Junction Gang Camp for terminally ill children.

Related restaurants[edit]

The Hapeville Dwarf House[edit]

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.[3] At the original Chick-fil-A Dwarf Grill, in addition to the full-size entrances, there is also an extra small-sized front door.[20] The original Dwarf House in Hapeville, Georgia is open 24 hours a day, six days a week, except on Sundays. The store closes at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday nights and reopens at 6 a.m. on Monday mornings. 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.[20]

Dwarf House[edit]

Truett's original, full-service restaurants offer an extensive menu, and provide customers a choice of table service, walk-up counter service or a drive-thru window. Eleven Chick-fil-A Dwarf House restaurants currently operate in the metro Atlanta area.[3]

Truett's Grill in Griffin, Georgia

Truett's Grill[edit]

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.[21] 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 atmosphere. One major difference from other Chick-fil-A restaurants, however, is the fact that beef products are served there, including steaks and hamburgers.[22][23][24]

Corporate culture[edit]

S. Truett Cathy is a devout Southern Baptist; his religious beliefs have a major impact on the company.[25] 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."[26]

Cathy's beliefs are also responsible for one of the chain's distinctive features: All Chick-fil-A locations are closed on Sundays,[27] as well as on Thanksgiving, and Christmas.[28] 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."[29]

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."[30]

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."[31]

Same-sex marriage controversy[edit]

The Chick-Fil-A in Port Charlotte, Florida, on August 1, 2012 "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day"
Protestors at Memphis, Tennessee, Chick-fil-A store on Same Sex Kiss Day

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.[32] 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."[33] The WinShape Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Truett and his wife, also stated it would not allow same-sex couples to participate in its marriage retreats.[34][35]

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 some consider to be anti-gay,[36] with the money donated between 2003 and 2009.[37] 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).[38] That year, the FRC, which received $1,000[37] was listed as an anti-gay[39] hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[40][41][42] WinShape has also contributed to Christian groups including Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Exodus International, the latter noted for supporting ex-gay conversion therapy.[38] In response, students at several colleges and universities worked to ban or remove the company's restaurants from their campuses.[43]

In June and July 2012, Chick-fil-A Chief operating officer Dan T. Cathy made several public statements supporting the traditional family, saying about same-sex marriage that those who "have the audacity to define what marriage is about" were "inviting God's judgment on our nation".[44] Several prominent politicians expressed disapproval.[45] Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and Chicago Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno said they hoped to block franchise expansion into their areas.[46][47] The proposed bans drew criticism from liberal pundits, legal experts, and the American Civil Liberties Union.[48] 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.[49] Chick-fil-A stopped distributing the toys, citing unrelated safety concerns that had arisen prior to the controversy.[50] 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."[51]

Response[edit]

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.[52][53][54] More than 600,000 people RSVPed on Facebook for Huckabee's appreciation event.[53] On August 1, Chick-fil-A restaurants experienced a large show of public support across the nation with the company reporting record-breaking sales.[52][53][54] A consulting firm estimated that the average Chick-fil-A restaurant had 29.9 percent more sales and 367 more customers than on a typical Wednesday.[1]

Protesters staged a same-sex "kiss day" at Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide on August 3, and suggested that supporters of same-sex marriage donate the cost of a Chick-fil-A meal to gay rights groups.[55]

Report of policy change[edit]

In September 2012, The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) announced that Chick-fil-A has "ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights." Chick-fil-A officials did state in an internal document that they "will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation."[56] In a letter from Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate, the company states, “The WinShape Foundations 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.”[57][58]

According to Chicago Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno, Chick-fil-A has 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 does 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.[59]

According to Focus on the Family's web site, 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." [60] Mike 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.[61][62]

Lawsuit over cancer risk[edit]

In 2006 a lawsuit was brought by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine against McDonald's, Applebee's, Outback Steakhouse, Chili's, T.G.I. Friday's, Burger King, and Chick-fil-A.[63] The organization asserted that cooking certain meats, including chicken, at high temperatures causes the formation of a heterocyclic amine called PhIP, a compound which has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats and mice.[64] A 2009 ruling for the defendants was followed by an August 2010 appeal decided in favor of the plaintiffs.[65] The matter has not been fully resolved, and is still before the courts of California.[when?][65][66]

Removal of questionable ingredients[edit]

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 the chain's Chick-fil-A sandwich contained nearly 100 ingredients, including peanut oil with TBHQ.[67] In October 2012, Chick-fil-A invited Hari to meet with company executives at its Atlanta, GA headquarters.[68] In December 2013, Chick-fil-A notified Hari that it had eliminated the dye Yellow No. 5 and reduced sodium content in its chicken soup. The company also said that it is testing a peanut oil that does not contain TBHQ and will start testing sauces and dressings made without high-fructose corn syrup in 2014.[68]

Plan to eliminate antibiotics in chicken[edit]

In February 2014, Chick-fil-A announced plans to serve chicken raised without antibiotics in its restaurants nationwide within five years.[69][70] Chick-fil-A is the first quick-service restaurant to set forth a plan and commit to serving only poultry raised without antibiotics.[70]

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 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.[71]

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External links[edit]