The truth about Chick-fil-A's breakfast

Make no mistake — Chick-fil-A has come a long way since the doors of the chicken chain first opened back in 1967. Back then, founder S. Truett Cathy had only just perfected the secret to creating quick yet delicious fried chicken sandwiches. (Fun fact: It was a pressure cooker.) Heady from that discovery, Cathy opened the original Chick-fil-A in suburban Atlanta's Greenbriar Mall. And at only 384 square feet, it was little more than a food court stopover. 

Today, the franchise boasts over 2,000 locations nationwide, and according to BuzzFeed News, it's on track to become the third-largest fast-food chain in the country. Loyal customers insist Chick-fil-A isn't just a restaurant; it's an experience. It has that sort of cult following for many reasons, and one of them is most definitely the fact that Chick-fil-A serves up delicious breakfast food with a smile. In fact, the chain served 2.7 million households their morning meals in 2018 — that many people can't be wrong about just how tasty it is.

But what do you really know about Chick-fil-A's first meal of the day? You know, aside from the fact that your morning wouldn't be the same without it? With 15 offerings available (as of March 2019) to kickstart your day, Chick-fil-A's a.m. menu includes some interesting behind-the-scenes info. From recipes that didn't make the cut to the hacks that'll score you free food, here's the truth about Chick-fil-A's breakfast. 

Someone got up super early to make your biscuits

If your mouth starts watering at the mere mention of a Chick-fil-A biscuit, you aren't alone — per CFA's blog, The Chicken Wire, 119 million biscuits were ordered in 2017. These light and fluffy butter pillows make waking up early a worthwhile trade-off. Have you ever stopped to consider why they're so gosh-darn delicious, though? For starters, every single biscuit is handmade. No frozen dough shall be served to you. Instead, Chick-fil-A employees commit to a labor of love.

"Team Members who master the skill of hand-rolling Chick-fil-A's Biscuits start their day pretty early. Like, before-the-sun-comes-up early. From beginning to end, the process for each batch of biscuits takes around 30 minutes," the blog explains, adding, "Team Members arrive before 5:30 a.m. to begin baking, and continue baking fresh hand-rolled biscuits throughout the morning, until the restaurant stops serving breakfast."

Further confirmation of this fact can be found via CNBC's Kathleen Elkins, who shadowed an employee at one of Chick-fil-A's busiest New York City locations in 2018. Elkins tagged along with the location's assistant director beginning at the bright-and-early hour of 6 a.m. During that time, the reporter confirmed, fresh biscuits were painstakingly mixed, rolled, shaped, and baked by the restaurant's resident "biscuit master." According to Elkins, it is a process that is at once "simple but laborious." (Not to mention definitely a job for a morning person.)

It's surprisingly health-conscious

For those of us who occasionally like to partake of fast food for breakfast, health isn't necessarily the deciding factor. But when you're pressed for time — or, let's be real, just craving a chicken biscuit — there are few more efficient-slash-satisfying options than Chick-fil-A.

And, hey, it's not as though you can't be health-conscious when you choose a Chick-fil-A breakfast. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that there are an impressive 10 pairings on the breakfast menu that come in under 400 calories. Yes, really! The Chicken Wire has detailed precisely what to order if you're trying to stay on track.

Take, for instance, a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Muffin with a medium fruit cup and a large coffee. That combo will only set you back 360 calories, while also delivering 17 grams of protein. Another popular option? You can get a four-count of the beloved Chick-n-Minis along with a large cup of hot coffee for only 350 calories. Even Chick-fil-A's buttery biscuits aren't off-limits to calorie counters. Just limit yourself to one (difficult, we know), then pair it with a medium fruit cup and small diet lemonade. 

Maybe steer clear of the Hash Brown Scramble Burrito, though. Per The Washingtonian, it's "one of the few menu items with trans fats listed," and it "will leave you feeling scrambled yourself." That doesn't seem like a stretch, considering this burrito has 690 calories and 1,600 milligrams of sodium.

It rarely ever changes

Since adding breakfast to its menu in 1986, Chick-fil-A has really hit its stride with its early morning offerings. Sure, over time they added things like a breakfast burrito, Chick-n-Minis, the Greek yogurt parfait, and a fresh fruit cup (a first for the industry when it was introduced in 2004). But, really, the restaurant rarely veers away from its core breakfast menu items. When it does, you better believe people take notice.

In 2016, the restaurant decided to enter the more health-conscious breakfast menu market by launching a new breakfast sandwich: the Egg White Grill. At the time, Chick-fil-A shared their motivation for making the change. "At Chick-fil-A, we're constantly looking for innovative — and delicious — ways to meet the needs of our guest," said David Farmer, vice president of menu strategy and development, in a press release. "We understand the importance of breakfast and the impact it has throughout the day. We tested the Egg White Grill in select markets across the country, including our busiest restaurants in Manhattan, and our customers gave us great feedback." The company called the Egg White Grill an ideal option for their "health-conscious" customer base.

While one sandwich might seem like a relatively insignificant move in the grand scheme of things, the menu addition made headlines. It's no wonder, either — it marked Chick-fil-A's first new addition to the breakfast menu in six years.

The ghost of the Spicy Chicken Biscuit still haunts it

The saga of the rarely-changing breakfast menu's Egg White Grill doesn't end there. Because when Chick-fil-A added the new, healthier sammie, it took away a longtime customer favorite. "In order to bring new flavors to the menu, the Spicy Chicken Biscuit has been removed to make room for the Egg White Grill," Chick-fil-A tweeted in July 2016. And the response from the social media fandom proved swift. "How in the HELL does an egg white grill sound as good as a spicy chicken biscuit?" one Twitter user asked. "Jesus wept at this decision."

The debate over the decision raged so fiercely on social media that Chick-fil-A devoted an entire blog post to the menu tweaks. "We hate disappointing our customers, and we know it's hard to make any change," VP David Farmer said in a post on The Chicken Wire. However, he went on to remind patrons that Chick-fil-A is a business with a bottom line. "The Spicy Chicken Biscuit represented one half of one percent of breakfast sales."

Although the controversy did eventually die down, some customers are still salty over the fact they had to say goodbye to the Spicy Chicken Biscuit. As recently as March 2019, one Twitter user so aptly observed, "If the Jonas Brothers can make a comeback, so can the spicy chicken biscuit @CFA."

But the breakfast menu is getting spicier

Lovers of the Spicy Chicken Biscuit, rejoice! In January 2019, Chick-fil-A made a very promising announcement — they're rolling out a new breakfast offering sure to add a little heat to customers' mornings. Even better? Per the Today show, it's "strikingly similar to the Spicy Chicken Biscuit the chain offered for years."

Let's back up for a minute and go over some of the fine print here. This new development started back in 2017, when Chick-fil-A began testing Spicy Chick-n-Strips on the menu at locations in Philadelphia, Texas, and Arizona. Realizing they may have a hit on their hands, they decided to bring even more heat with a Grilled Spicy Deluxe Chicken sandwich in select Florida, Missouri, and Tennessee locations. The latest phase (the one announced in early 2019) entails bringing not only the Grilled Spicy Deluxe Chicken sandwich to Arizona locations, but also putting those Spicy Chick-n-Strips on a freshly-baked buttermilk biscuit to form the fledgling Spicy Chick-n-Strips Biscuit.

Suffice it to say, you shouldn't count your Spicy Chicken Biscuits before they hatch. As of January 2019, Chick-fil-A will only offer these spicy additions in Arizona markets for the time being. If they prove to be popular enough, though, it's entirely possible Spicy Chicken Biscuits — or at least something very similar — will return to nationwide breakfast menus in the near future.

It comes in buffet form, because dreams do come true

Take a journey back in time to yesteryear —1946, to be precise. The city was Atlanta, Georgia, and the restaurant was the Dwarf Grill. Bet you thought we were going to say Chick-fil-A, right? Well, to be clear, they're essentially the same thing. (Although, to add an extra layer of confusion, the Dwarf Grill was eventually renamed Dwarf House.) Dwarf House, a classic diner-style restaurant, was the first restaurant opened by late Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy.

Today, Dwarf House still serves up the original chicken sandwich customers have come to know and love. However, this particular restaurant does it from a distinctively quirky red-roofed building (it even has a miniature door for little visitors). In addition to the famed chicken sandwich, patrons can order more traditional diner fare like burgers, mac and cheese, and cornbread.

As if a Chick-fil-A diner wasn't proof enough that dreams do come true, there's more. The Internet Is In America blogger Jimbo X chronicled his trip to the Woodstock, Georgia, Dwarf House location, which features — wait for it — an all-you-can-eat Chick-fil-A breakfast buffet. Jimbo X reports that on the day of his visit there were only nine breakfast items to choose from, and while the variety wasn't immense, the quality was. "You really can't argue with the quality of the food, though. Pretty much everything on tap was delicious…" he said. All we need are those unlimited chicken patties and biscuits, to be honest.

Biscuit cinnamon rolls were almost a thing

Life can deliver some cruel blows. And by life, we clearly mean Chick-fil-A. Need we revisit the fact that they took the Spicy Chicken Biscuit off the breakfast menu? Sometimes, you aren't even aware of just how unfair life can be. Until that is, Chick-fil-A posts a blog revealing a few hard truths about the evolution of its breakfast.

In March 2019, The Chicken Wire interviewed Chick-fil-A chef Christy Cook to find out if there were any memorable recipes over the years that fell short of a spot on the menu. And, boy, were there ever — arguably the most memorable of which was the ill-fated Biscuit Cinnamon Roll. As in, yes, Chick-fil-A biscuit dough rolled in cinnamon, butter, and sugar, and then cut, baked, and drenched in icing. Sounds drool-worthy, so what went wrong? "Even though the recipe was simple, it was surprisingly complex to make across all our restaurants," said Cook. "Customers loved how it tasted, but because we couldn't prepare it fresh in our restaurant kitchens each morning and get it right every time, we cut it."

That's the bad news. The good news is that sometimes unsuccessful breakfast items "fail forward." Take, for example, the cranberry orange bagel — a fruity breakfast bagel served with a chicken filet and cream cheese on the side. Although it was "just so far out there, ahead of its time," it inspired the perennially popular Chicken, Egg and Cheese Bagel.

Time it right, and you could score extra biscuits

The fast food industry has its own specific set of urban legends and, not surprisingly, at least one revolves around Chick-fil-A. You know how these things go. You hear people talk about it in passing. They spread the word in hushed whispers. But until you experience it for yourself, you can never really be sure if it's real. Yep, we're talking about the myth of the free breakfast biscuits.

We traced the rumor back as far as 2012, when a Twitter user claimed, "So apparently if you go to Chick-fil-A at 10:31 and they have extra biscuits, they're free." In 2014, another Twitter user confirmed that timing is important, but said that chicken biscuits were also on the table: "Always go to Chick-fil-A right after they stop serving breakfast because they give you the extra chicken biscuits. #yourewelcome"

It apparently isn't just free chicken (or chicken biscuits) being doled out, either. In March 2018, Chick-fil-A hooked up one Twitter user with "2 extra chicken biscuits and hash browns for free." And in December 2018, another Twitter user couldn't help but praise Chick-fil-A's customer service. "I ordered breakfast through the app because I knew I wouldn't get there by 10:30. Get there 15 minutes late and they give me two extra chicken biscuits and a cookie for free?! Just can't be matched."

In some cities, Chick-n-Minis aren't always JUST for breakfast

If you've never experienced the wonder of Chick-n-Minis, what even is your life, friend? Here's the breakdown for you — this breakfast dish consists of "bite-sized Chick-fil-A Nuggets nestled in warm, mouth-watering mini yeast rolls that are lightly coated with honey butter spread." You can order them in a four-pack or a 10-pack, and you'll want to be sure to order enough to get you through the entire day. Or, even better, adulthood.

Unfortunately, these tasty little fellows must be ordered during breakfast hours, meaning you have to stock up by 10:30 a.m. or you're out of luck. At least some of us are. Others among us clearly have all the luck because, in select cities, Chick-n-Minis are occasionally served all day long. Chick-fil-A announced the good news in May 2018, noting the item would be "available for lunch, dinner… or snacks in-between meals in Tampa, Florida, and Little Rock, Arkansas, beginning June 4."

While it seems the promotion only lasted until August 2018, the fact that it even existed suggests Chick-fil-A could bring it back at any time in the future. If all else fails, though, you could always order a Chick-n-Minis Tray in either a 20 or 40 count. Go big or go home! 

There's personal history behind the Chick-fil-A Chicken Biscuit

Chick-fil-A's Chicken Biscuit has a ravenous fanbase who make it one of the most in-demand items on the menu. Can you really blame anyone for being addicted, though? The sandwich features a breakfast portion of the restaurant's famous boneless chicken breast that is "seasoned to perfection, hand-breaded, pressure-cooked in 100 percent refined peanut oil" and served on a freshly-baked buttermilk biscuit.

It's little wonder that patrons ponder what exactly the restaurant puts in the menu item to make it so irresistible. One Twitter user thinks that perhaps CFA has a secret weapon in the kitchen: "Have you ever had a Chicken Biscuit from @ChickfilA in the morning? I swear somebody Grandma back there making those biscuits with love, butter, and the power of the ancestors. Wish they served them all day."

Truth be told, the latter isn't too far off. According to The Chicken Wire, the Chicken Biscuit is a direct reflection of Shona Jonson, a member of Chick-fil-A's Culinary and Commercialization team who has been making improvements to the sandwich for nearly 20 years. Her biscuit roots run deep — as a child, she grew up watching her great-grandmother make biscuits every day. "I was very lucky that I came from a legacy of people who are very comfortable in the kitchen," Jonson said. In other words, the world owes a great debt to Granny Jonson.

There's probably a free breakfast in your future

In case you haven't caught on yet, Chick-fil-A is kind of like the fairy godmother of the fast food world. It's impossibly optimistic, smells like heaven, and does its very best to make sure you get whatever your heart (or, more to the point, stomach) wants. And like any such magical benevolent presence would, Chick-fil-A has been known to put your needs before its own. No, they won't be handing out glass slippers anytime soon, but they might indeed dole out complimentary breakfast.

In fact, year after year, CFA has been known to hand out breakfast freebies left and right. The catch is, you never know when it will happen. So do yourself a favor and download the Chick-fil-A One app, follow them on social media, and keep an eye out for those offers. No one wants to miss a free breakfast.

Or, if you haven't heard about any promos in your area, you can always take the advice of this Twitter user who claims all Chick-fil-A locations offer a free breakfast item on Tuesday mornings: "To get the free food, you just have to ask, 'What's today's free item' and you most likely will get free food!" Here's hoping, right?

Being an early bird could get you more, well, bird

We were today years old when we learned that there is, in all seriousness, a way to win free Chick-fil-A for an entire year. It isn't an urban legend, either. Of course, there's a catch — you're gonna have to get up early, because it all starts with a Chick-fil-A breakfast.

Dying for details? So, every time Chick-fil-A opens a restaurant in a new location, they encourage patrons to participate in an overnight event at the new restaurant's parking lot. Called the First 100 Campout, it rewards the first 100 customers in line for breakfast on the first morning of the restaurant's opening with free Chick-fil-A for a year.

This tradition, which dates back to 2003, does come with a few caveats. You must be 18 or older, have a valid government-issued ID or other form of identification with your age and residence, and you must live in the zip codes listed for each restaurant at the time of the opening. And, in full disclosure, you don't get carte blanche to eat Chick-fil-A to your heart's content. Rather, you'll get a promotional card valid for 52 Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich Meals, or one per week. But still — totally worth it.