Chick-Fil-A Exec Confirms That Harvard Rumor And If They'll Ever Open On Sundays

Chick-fil-A has achieved a balance that few fast food establishments have been able to master. The chain has seen tremendous growth in the last few decades, expanding from a small operation in the heart of Georgia and then across the South, to a household name across the U.S. You can find Chick-fil-A locations in 47 states (plus Canada and Puerto Rico), along with a fan base who can't get enough chicken. Throughout all of this, however, there are several aspects of the business and its values that have remained unchanged. It is still a private, family-owned company to this day; employees still say "my pleasure" whenever you thank them; the almighty chicken recipe remains the same, and is still under lock and key; and restaurants are still closed on Sundays.

It's also still true that Chick-fil-A is one of the most competitive fast food franchises out there, despite being one of the most inexpensive. You don't need to front a gargantuan amount of funds to open a Chick-fil-A, but you do have to exceed the corporate office's rigorous standards. In fact, some have even joked that it's easier to get into Harvard than to open a Chick-fil-A franchise.

Could that really be true? Mashed spoke exclusively with Chick-fil-A Director of Menu and Packaging Leslie Neslage during a recent visit to the company's headquarters and test kitchen in Atlanta, Georgia. Neslage dished on the rumors for anyone who wants to run a Chick-fil-A one day, and one more burning question fans continue to ask.

Harvard is tough, but Chick-fil-A is tougher

Chick-fil-A is certainly not getting any less popular. And that means that it's not going to stop growing to meet the demand for delicious chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. "We are expanding. We have an international team," noted Leslie Neslage, who says that the company is always looking toward where it can go next, and seeing "where do those opportunities make sense? It's so exciting to see."

Of course, they don't have to look that far. The company sees tens of thousands of applications every year from eager entrepreneurs who believe that Chick-fil-A is their opportunity for success. But the chain only accepts about a 100 applications or so. To put it another way, Chick-fil-A reportedly accepts about 1% of its franchise applications every year. Compare that to Harvard, which even while reporting record-low acceptance for the most recent class, brought on 4.5% of its applications. "I don't know Harvard's requirements," says Neslage, but the numbers don't lie, and she admitted that you might have better luck graduating with an Ivy League degree than calling yourself a Chick-fil-A franchise owner.

Some things will never change at Chick-fil-A

"We are very selective with our owner operators," confirmed Leslie Neslage. And while it's probably true that every major fast food chain uses some discretion in who they extend business to, none hold their franchise owners to the standards of Chick-fil-A. "We want an owner operator that has an entrepreneurial spirit that is passionate about his or her community, investing in that community, investing in the lives of team members, serving those guests, and they are working in our restaurants day in and day out." Neslage added that running a Chick-fil-A, "is a very hands-on operation," and not just when it comes to running the kitchen smoothly. The brand expects the owners and operators to know their customers personally. "They know the guest, they know Miss Betty who comes in every day and wants a Sunjoy or who was friends with Truett. They know those customers, and that's what the magic of Chick-fil-A is."

Neslage said that Chick-fil-A's high standards will never change. And that's not the only thing that won't be changing anytime soon. Fans of the fast food stop are always wondering if Chick-fil-A will ever be open on Sundays. To that, Neslage's answer was a quick, resounding "no." Best to just take what you can get and enjoy the tasty results during the other six days of the week.