The biggest flops in Chick-fil-A's history

Chick-fil-A holds a unique spot in the American fast food landscape. Fans of the fried chicken chain are passionate about showing their love for the brand through everything from Chick-fil-A-inspired manicures to elaborate themed birthday cakes. Aspiring entrepreneurs look to it as a gold standard, and according to the Chicago Tribune, scoring a Chick-fil-A franchise is said to be more difficult than getting into Harvard. On the other hand, those who don't like the the chain's staunchly Christian views (that's why they're closed on Sundays) and public anti-LGBTQ stances flatly boycott their locations, no matter how good the signature waffle fries are. 

Chick-fil-A has a relatively small menu, and it adheres to a rigorous testing process that begins in its centralized test kitchen, which is located in Atlanta, Georgia. The methods are so in-depth, the test kitchen even has its own drive-through window so employees can most accurately simulate the guest experience. However, in spite of all of its precautions, even Chick-fil-A has had some menu items that just missed the mark. Read on to learn about some of the biggest flops in the history of one of America's most controversial fast food chains.

Chick-fil-A's Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls

Fans of Burger King's cult-favorite (and now discontinued) Cini-Minis might be disappointed to learn that Chick-fil-A almost rolled out a similar option as part of its beloved breakfast menu. Chick-fil-A's Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls combined the chain's well-known biscuit dough with cinnamon, butter, and sugar before being topped with a drizzle of vanilla icing. Based on how good Chick-fil-A's freshly baked biscuits are, it seems likely that this combination would have yielded a breakfast pastry so delicious that even the chain's naysayers might have weathered their guilt and broken ranks — yes, that's a thing — to try them.

So, why are we not all lamenting the fact that it's impossible to get Chick-fil-A's Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls on a Sunday? It's because this is one of several items that, while promising, never made it past the testing phase. While these breakfast goodies did make it to select locations and received rave reviews from customers, pulling Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls from the menu was not about taste. Chick-fil-A is known for having a high level of consistency across all locations, and this item was just too complicated for every store to pull off at the same high level every time. 

"Even though the recipe was simple, it was surprisingly complex to make across all our restaurants," says Chef Christy Cook on Chick-fil-A's official blog, The Chicken Wire. "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."

Chick-fil-A's Rosemary Garlic Flatbread Wrap

This failed menu item might sound familiar if you frequent Chick-fil-A. The Rosemary Garlic Flatbread Wrap was actually the original inspiration for the now-popular Grilled Cool Wrap, which is widely considered to be one of the healthiest options on the fried chicken chain's menu. This sandwich made it out of the test kitchen was trialed in three cities: Memphis, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. These taste tests had an interesting twist that we think could have had a major impact on the success (or lack thereof) of the sandwich: Customers who tried it had no idea that the wrap was from Chick-fil-A! 

"It was very polarizing," Jonson told The Chicken Wire, "There were lovers, and there were haters."

While there is little information available today about the Rosemary Garlic Flatbread Wrap, it does seem like the biggest change that was made when transitioning this item to its final iteration as the Grilled Cool Wrap was swapping out the thicker, fluffier herbed flatbread for a thinner, more traditional multigrain wrap.

Chick-fil-A's Chicken Quesadilla

According to Thrillist, Chick-fil-A can lay claim to the honor of making the best chicken nuggets. When the culinary development team behind the brand started looking for ways to get creative with the beloved nuggets, it's not surprising that they decided to try making a quesadilla. However, this is one menu item that never even made it into select locations for taste testing. Chick-fil-A's Chicken Quesadilla was such a flop, it never even left the test kitchen. 

There isn't a ton of information available about the Chicken Quesadilla, but apparently, the original version contained chicken nuggets and melted cheese inside of a large flour tortilla. The Chicken Wire says that the reason this one stalled before taste testing was the fact that it took too long to make. However, you can still order a Chicken Quesadilla at most Chick-fil-A locations by hacking the secret menu. If you want something that feels more like a legitimate quesadilla, order grilled chicken and melted cheese in a flour tortilla, which they should have on hand because it's used for the Hash Brown Scramble Burrito at breakfast. Want to taste something more like what the test kitchen chefs had in mind? Just swap that grilled chicken for chicken nuggets.

Chick-fil-A's Cranberry Orange Bagel

The Cranberry Orange Bagel is quite possibly one of the weirdest ideas the team at Chick-fil-A has ever come up with, and that's exactly why you won't find it on menus at any location. Back in 2006, the chefs were working on a new spin on chicken-centric breakfast sandwiches. They started with a square-shaped cranberry orange bagel. This innovative bagel was strange enough on its own, but then a chicken fillet and a side of cream cheese were added to create a sandwich that was, apparently, pretty good.

"It was just so far out there, ahead of its time. Often that's what happens. The market isn't ready for it," Cook told The Chicken Wire. After they scrapped the Cranberry Orange Bagel, the Chick-fil-A team had a hit with the next iteration: The Chicken Egg & Cheese Bagel. A spin on the ever-popular bacon egg & cheese (sans bacon), this one is served on a sunflower multigrain bagel. 

Chick-fil-A's Carrot Raisin Salad

Sometimes, even the most beloved, cult-favorite menu items don't make it in the long run. Chick-fil-A's Carrot Raisin Salad is a prime example of this phenomenon. Apparently, this side dish was inspired by one of founder Truett Cathy's family recipes. Southern Living refers to it as "a side dish that practically doubles as a dessert." Before the magazine's staff even heard the news, they had tried to reverse-engineer their own version but said they could never get it to be quite as good as the original. 

Since then, The Chicken Wire has released the official recipe, so those who miss the Chick-fil-A staple can make a pretty close approximation at home. And if that's not enough, die-hard fans can make a pilgrimage to Truett's Grill and Dwarf House, located in Georgia. As Chick-fil-A's heritage restaurants, they serve Carrot Raisin Salad just the way Truett Cathy himself would have made it.

Chick-fil-A's Chicken Salad Sandwich

Not every chicken-centric dish that Chick-fil-A tries out is a runaway success. Their Chicken Salad Sandwich was once a classic menu item, but it ultimately fell victim to changing tastes. In 2017, Today reported that that the beloved sandwich was leaving menus. The company told Today that the decision to remove the item wasn't an easy one, stating, "We know that many of our customers loved our Chicken Salad, but we have also heard from guests that they are looking for new tastes and fresh flavors on the menu in our restaurants." 

As with many of the other sorely missed discontinued menu items, the recipe for the Chick-fil-A Chicken Salad Sandwich is available on The Chicken Wire, so you can whip up your own version at home. Since removing this one from the menu, the chain has mostly doubled down on its fried chicken offerings, with only a few grilled chicken options available for those who might be slightly more health-conscious.

Chick-fil-A's UK location

While this one isn't a menu item, it was a big flop for Chick-fil-A just the same. According to a report by Business Insider, Chick-fil-A's expansion into the United Kingdom was fraught from the start. The first UK location at The Oracle shopping centre in Reading closed after only a brief six-month period. Although American audiences don't seem to mind the chain's sometimes controversial social and political stances, overseas customers were quick to show their outrage. Chick-fil-A remained optimistic, however, and opened a second location in Scotland

All of the UK locations were technically executed as branded pop-ups with limited menus, so the chain could feel things out before committing to a full-blown expansion plan. However, ambitions of success in the United Kingdom were eventually thwarted in 2020. LGBTQ activists and members of Parliament banded together to circulate petitions and boycotts. The last location in the UK closed on January 18, 2020, and we don't expect to see another attempt at cracking that market any time soon.