Chick-fil-A, the Southern-based quick-serve restaurant known for charity, controversy,
and really good chicken, is rapidly expanding throughout the US.
There's a lot of information out there about one of America's favorite fast chicken stops,
but you don't know the whole story — until now.
The surprising best-seller
Can you guess what the top selling item is at Chick-fil-A?
"And stop right there."
It's the Waffle Fries.
Sounds insane, right?
But look at it this way: what is offered with every combo meal?
Sure, you can substitute that kale thing or some other side, but let's be real; how many
people can head to a fast food joint of any kind and resist the fries?
"The french fries are pretty good."
"French Fried pertaters?"
That might have been a bit of a trick question, so how about this one: which main menu item
sells the best?
It shouldn't come as too much of a shock, but the most popular chicken item at Chick-fil-A
is the Original Chicken Sandwich.
Thanks in part to all the options, it beats nuggets hands down.
There's nothing like the old, reliable, Original Chicken Sandwich for countless customers.
BBQ sauce failure
Chick-fil-A might have thought a change to their barbecue sauce in 2016 would go over
pretty well, but people had, well, strong opinions about the switch from original to
"Someone console me, Chick-fil-A changed their BBQ sauce and my life is ruined.
That's so sad."
Fans took to extreme measures to get their point across, and after months of social media
protests and what might just be the only online petition that ever actually worked, Chick-fil-A
caved and announced they were bringing back the original BBQ sauce.
Fans are serious!
"Hey Chick-fil-A… tell whoever came up with the idea to change your BBQ sauce that they
maybe shouldn't have any more ideas.
So what's the secret to Chick-fil-A?
How do they make delicious chicken happen so fast?
Fortunately for fans, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy spilled the beans on the real trick
to how they get it done and just how they stumbled on the quick-cooking idea.
The Dwarf Grill was the original restaurant of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, and they
started out serving workers on their break from the nearby Ford plant.
Workers didn't have a lot of time to wait around for chicken to fry up for 15 minutes,
so they developed a method of pressure cooking the chicken then serving it up on a bun.
They not only created what Cathy says was the first chicken sandwich, but it got everyone
in and out quickly, was tasty, and was an absolute win.
It takes about four minutes to cook up a Chick-fil-A sandwich, and that's the same method they
still use today.
Has being anti-LGBT hurt?
The biggest court in the land is the court of public opinion and social media, and in
June 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey fell afoul of it when he tweeted an image that implied
he ordered Chick-fil-A during LGBT Pride Month.
Dorsey apologized, of course, and that's just one instance of outrage frequently directed
at the notoriously conservative chain.
So, are they hurting their business by being so public about their personal views?
The short answer is no.
Sales have almost doubled since 2012, the year Chick-fil-A's anti-gay marriage backing
became national news.
Calls went out for Chick-fil-A protests and boycotts, but that press attention may have
worked in their favor.
It's possible that people who had never visited a Chick-fil-A became curious what the place
was about, and discovered a food they liked in the process.
Meanwhile, president Dan Cathy has tried to take the sting out of some of the worst of
his statements, and says he's not the hate-monger he's made out to be.
"I've been able to reach out to to..
People in the gay community and sit down and have some incredibly wonderful dialogue with
Don't tell the cows, but you can order a hamburger at a few Chick-fil-A's.
How can they stoop to such dirty marketing deeds?
Well, technically it's not a Chick-fil-A. But it kinda is.
Truett Cathy opened his first questionably-named Dwarf Grill in 1946, later renamed it Dwarf
House, and in case you're wondering, they all come complete with a tiny little door.
The Hapeville, Georgia location still exists today with a Chick-fil-A appendage on the
original restaurant, and it's just one of 11 locations in the Atlanta area.
And yes, the Dwarf House was one of many diners in the south boasting a full-service menu.
To the dismay of the Chick-fil-A cows, the traditional diner fare included hamburgers
and it still does.
Can we keep this one quiet?
Franchisees don't get rich
No chain restaurant rakes it in like Chick-fil-A. Taking in just under $3.2 million gross revenue
per store in 2012, the average Chick-fil-A can out-gross even the mighty McDonald's.
The franchise fee for Chick-fil-A is (as of 2018) a miniscule $10,000.
That means owning a store as a franchisee is a highly-sought after commodity, but potential
owners shouldn't expect the luxuries that usually accompany the high life.
There are some down sides, starting with the moment corporate picks the spot and buys the
land where the restaurant goes.
They'll own that forever, and franchisees will never have a chance to buy it from them.
Everything at the location is rented to the franchisee for a 15 percent pre-tax sales
fee, and on top of that, a whopping 50 percent of gross profit heads to the home office in
To put that in perspective, the industry standard is for corporate to take between 5 and 10
percent of gross sales.
They also demand that owners not just be a name on a sign somewhere.
If you own a Chick-fil-A ,they want you to be hands-on and promise to fall in line with
all of their beliefs, including closing on Sundays.
Still, the overwhelming majority of Chick-fil-A franchise owners keep their stores for life,
even though they won't spend those lives as millionaires.
Will they go public?
Investors might be craving the chance to get their hands on some Chick-fil-A stock, but
the Cathy family had steadfastly maintained that just ain't gonna happen.
"No, no God please, no!
Founder Truett Cathy died in 2014 after a long career, first behind the counter, then
at the helm of a massive chain.
But before he passed, he made a deal with his children that would make sure the devoutly
religious beliefs and family values that he founded the company on would remain intact.
His heirs can sell the chain, but it must remain private.
Why keep his kin from the potential billions in windfall?
It's impossible to tell for sure just what the conversation was, but industry analysts
at Business Insider suggest it's because Cathy knew that publicly, Chick-fil-A would be beholden
to shareholders and the opinions of others who might not share his family's conservative
They point out Chick-fil-A's Corporate statement:
"To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have
a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A."
That would have to change if they ever went public, and they suggest that change is a
huge part of the reason their founder wanted them to stay private.
It's not unheard of for people to squirrel away a few packets of Chick-fil-A sauce to
apply to their own home cooking.
There are copycat recipes available, but let's be honest.
They're never quite the same are they?
A word of warning, through.
Before you go and crank up your own homemade awesomeness with a pack or two of the real
deal, you might want to consider investing in an elliptical.
A solitary, tiny little 1-ounce packet of Chick-fil-A sauce is a whopping 140 calories.
Chick-fil-A has only really had major success in America, even though they have ventured
into international territories in the past.
They pulled out of their short-lived South African venture in 2001, and it wasn't until
2014 they went international again… while still staying close to home.
That's when they opened a Canadian location in the Calgary Airport, which is admittedly
not the first thing you think of when you start talking about north of the border.
Chick-fil-A has had better luck in airports than in actually setting up shop overseas,
and if the response to the 2018 news they were moving into Toronto is any judge, it
might have something to do with the fact they're known as the controversial American chicken
So for now, they're sticking mostly to their home turf, with Alaska, Hawaii, and Vermont
being the last states without a Chick-fil-A. Why Vermont?
Hey, it's a strange place.
Oh Go girlfriend.
I'm your mother, come on Thorny you're losing to the rookie, it's embarrassing.
Come on, rabbit!"
If you really want free Chick-fil-A, there's an app for that, and it rewards you for using
the platform with free food items after you reach certain thresholds.
That's the easy way, but there's another way to get free grub.
If you're one of the first 100 people at a new Chick-fil-A grand opening, you'll receive
a coupon for one free meal a week for a year.
People take that seriously.
If you want to get free food the really hard way, how about being born there?
After one woman gave birth in a San Antonio Chick-fil-A in 2018, they promised the baby
free food for life.
Chick-fil-A also isn't above giving away food for a worthy cause, and sometimes human tragedy
even outweighs their own rules about closing on Sundays.
In 2016, after the tragic Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando, Chick-fil-A not only
broke their Sunday rules, but they reached across what had previously been a major boundary.
A location near the club opened their kitchens, and delivered food to first responders and
to those donating blood on the Sunday after the attacks.
Stores have also helped on the scenes of other natural disasters from hurricanes to tornadoes,
reaching out to help the community no matter what day of the week.
That Chick-fil-A sauce
Given the tight reins placed upon franchises, you wouldn't expect a lot of independent thought
allowed in the stores.
But the Chick-fil-A powers recognized it when good stuff came out of a store in Virginia.
As unlikely as it sounds, there were originally no dipping sauces with the chicken nuggets.
Until, that is, Hugh Fleming saw a need.
He was whipping up his own honey mustard for the nuggets, and later, by a happy accident,
it was mixed in with the location's standard BBQ sauce.
It was a massive hit, and people were pretty upset that was the only Chick-fil-A that carried
Chick-fil-A tried to make a copycat version on their own, and while the Honey Roasted
BBQ wasn't bad, it wasn't Mr. Fleming's Sauce, either.
In 2007, Fleming gave Chick-fil-A the recipe.
Literally, as in, he doesn't take any royalties for the sauce.
Chick-Fil-A took it national, renamed it, and now they go through more than 84 million
packets a year.
Shopping mall staple
In the 1980s and 90s, the shopping mall was the place to hang, no matter what time of
Malls across the country were hugely popular going back into the 60s, so it's easy to see
how opening the first Chick-fil-A in Atlanta's Greenbriar Mall was a great business decision.
The idea behind Chick-fil-A was quite an innovation, and it opened at a time when malls were for
shopping, and eating happened elsewhere.
Cathy noticed the shift to indoor mall shopping, especially in muggy Atlanta, and figured people
would eat there, as well.
They did, and Cathy used the mall location to introduce the public to his unique chicken
It was popular, obviously, and from there Chick-fil-A moved to other malls throughout
It wasn't until 1986 that Chick-fil-A constructed their first stand-alone store, and while corporate
experimented with drive-thru only locations they ultimately decided the brick and mortar,
walk-in model was the way to go.
Chick-fil-A continues to expand, so if there's not one near you there probably will be soon.