Despite incessant attacks from the left and being open one less day per week than its competitors, Chick-fil-A soared to become the third-largest restaurant chain in the United States – behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks – and figures show the Christian-owned eatery is quickly closing the gap.
According to analysis provided by Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), McDonald’s resumed its No. 1 ranking with $38.52 billion in total sales, followed by No. 2 Starbucks at $20.49 billion, with Chick-fil-A ($10.46 billion) ascending from No. 7 this year to knock Subway into the No. 4 slot and Taco Bell to No. 5. Burger King now assumes No. 6, with Wendy’s taking Chick-fil-A’s former spot at No. 7.
Keep it simple, stupid
As God continues to bless Chick-fil-A for honoring the Sabbath, NRN identifies it as one of America’s fastest-growing fast food chains, boasting 2,400 stores across 47 states.
Not diverting much from its simple chicken sandwich-centered menu, the fast food giant has enjoyed double-digit sales growth five years straight, rising 16.7 percent from 2018 sales ($8.97 billion), with a continuing trend projected as more and more locations are slated to open from coast to coast.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) posted a YouTube video on its website titled “How Chick-fil-A Got Big by Keeping Its Menu Small,” stressing how it grew to stellar heights on “the strength of a simple chicken sandwich.”
Several specific factors were highlighted as bringing the Christian business success, including:simple ingredients; simple menu additions; efficient drive-thru performance; its single-owner franchise system; America's increasing taste for chicken and decreasing desire for beef and; its growing market share when compared to other restaurant chains centered around chicken.
Former Chick-fil-A CMO Steve Robinson pointed out another driving force behind Chick-fil-A distinguishing itself from other franchise restaurants.
“Chick-fil-A is known for their food, but, quite frankly, we’ve become better known for our service and our hospitality,” Robinson told Fox Business. “[B]rand is built around gracious engagement and genuine engagement.”
Still climbing …
One industry expert contended that the Seattle, Washington-based progressive Starbucks chain should be worried about likely losing its silver medal to the Atlanta, Georgia-based conservative Christian Chick-fil-A in the near future.
"Can they double that? I think that is a very reasonable goal for them," Kalinowski Equity Research Founder Mark Kalinowski told Business Insider in May. "I would be surprised if they didn't double that in the not-too-distant future. Can they reach $30 billion? I think that's also a realistic goal if you give them enough time – and that should put them ahead of Starbucks."
A quick look at the numbers reveals why Ronald McDonald and the crowned Starbuck’s mermaid could likely be stepping down the ladder as Chick-fil-A’s black and white cow climbs to the top.
“Chick-fil-A competes with chains that have many more locations because of its enviable average unit volumes,” the Business Insider pointed out. “On average, a Chick-fil-A location brought in $4.6 million in annual sales in 2018 – up from $4.2 million in 2017 [and] more than any other fast-food chain. By comparison, the average McDonald's location made $2.8 million.”
And since Chick-fil-A has only recently begun a more concerted expansion beyond the South, huge growth over the next few years is expected.
"They're severely under-penetrated, [so] once you start looking at all these other big metropolitan areas in all these states, there's room for growth for – not just years and years to come, but potentially decades to come," Kalinowski added. "I would say there's pressure on the burger chains, in general, and they're fighting that off with varying degrees of success."
Micky D’s and the coffee giant aren’t the only franchises that should be anxious about the swift rise of the home of “The Original Chicken Sandwich.”
“Kalinowski says that some of the brands that should be most concerned about Chick-fil-A's growth are chicken rival KFC and Wendy's, which is known for its chicken sandwich,” Business Insider noted. “In an increasingly competitive restaurant industry, many chains are feeling the pressure from Chick-fil-A's growth, as rivals struggle to attract more customers.”
Chick-fil-A’s decades-old decision to remain closed on Sundays is based on Chick-fil-A Founder Truett Cathy’s Christian faith in keeping with the Sabbath, and it is contended that closing down shop for one day on a weekly basis doesn’t hurt, but helps business.
“While the decision to close on Sunday is driven by religious values, analysts say that it is also a brilliant business decision,” Business Insider’s Kate Taylor explained in a separate report earlier this month. “Closing on Sunday gives employees a chance to recharge, and it creates a sense of community and scarcity among customers.”
Ascending KFC and other iconic chicken franchises has been no problem competing just six days a week.
“Chick-fil-A is achieving sales numbers no other chicken chain in the industry can top – and it's doing it with one fewer day of the week to work with,” Taylor emphasized. “The chicken chain is famous for its policy of closing on Sunday – even locations in airports and sports stadiums remain closed on Sunday, despite the massive number of travelers and hungry football fans seeking fried-chicken sandwiches.”
Truett Cathy touched on his faith guiding his business.
"Closing our business on Sunday, the Lord's Day, is our way of honoring God and showing our loyalty to Him," Cathy wrote in his book, Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People. "My brother Ben and I closed our first restaurant on the first Sunday after we opened in 1946, and my children have committed to closing our restaurants on Sundays long after I'm gone. I believe God honors our decision and sets before us unexpected opportunities to do greater work for Him because of our loyalty."
Even though common business sense tells most that losing one day of business a week will put any company at a disadvantage, God’s infinite wisdom beyond all understanding has proved otherwise.
“Despite being open for 14 percent fewer days a year than competitors, Chick-fil-A is dominating the fast-food industry,” Taylor explained. “While Cathy's original reason may have been based purely on his Christian faith, analysts say that the decision to close on Sunday is also a brilliant business decision.”
Kalinowsky indicated that following God’s plan in business makes perfect sense – despite what most people would naturally think
"Initially, people might think, well, they're going to do less sales because they closed one day every week," Kalinowski explained to Business Insider. "But, there are a lot of benefits to being closed on Sundays."
God knows the nature of those He designed better than they themselves know.
“Giving employees and franchisees (referred to as operators at Chick-fil-A) at least one day off a week allows them to relax and return rejuvenated to their jobs, Kalinowski says, [a]nd, for customers, the knowledge that they can't get Chick-fil-A on Sundays helps drive them to visit the chain when it is open,” Taylor shared from the interview.
The genius of being closed Sundays was further explained.
"It provides a sense of urgency – you better get to that restaurant today, because they're going to be closed on Sunday," Kalinowski added. "I don't think the company designed it that way at all, but it's a call to action every single week."
Franchise Times President John Hamburger also shared how closing on Sundays acts as a counterintuitive sales booster.
"Being open six days a week provides benefits to both the operators and the customers," Hamburger told the business publication. "The owner operator gets the time off. Closed on Sunday conveys a sense of caring and community to the customers. Being private means they can do the right thing – not the expedient Wall Street way of doing things.”