The Only Places You Can Find Chick-Fil-A Outside The US

It is not uncommon for Americans traveling abroad to pop into the local American fast-food franchise to see how it differs from home. With Chick-fil-A, options are limited. Very limited. So limited, in fact, that you have a choice of two locations: the Chick-fil-A in Toronto and the one in North York, Ontario. When reporting on the brand's plan to open 3 Toronto locations in 2019 with hopes of opening 15 in total, The Globe & Mail primarily focused on the LGBTQ controversies Chick-fil-A has been embroiled in over the years, opening with "Chick-fil-A Inc., the controversial fast-food chain whose owners have spoken out against gay marriage, plans to expand to Toronto next year."

The controversies, as explained by Vox, center around the fact that charities Chick-fil-A consistently donated to were the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Salvation Army, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home, all of which had anti-LGBTQ views. The fact that Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, infused his chain with his Baptist values, and his son Dan stated his belief in "[the] biblical definition of the family unit" didn't help. Even though the rehaul of Chick-fil-A's donations strategy resulted in the discontinuation of payments to these charities – a side effect, Snopes notes, not the purpose of the strategic shift – the image of Chick-fil-A holding a rabidly anti-LGBTQ stance had already entrenched itself in the public's imagination.

Because of this, as the Atlanta Business Chronicle covered, Chick-fil-A's Toronto debut met a strong protest from residents of the city. Still, however, it stands.

Chick-fil-A in the UK

However, Canada was not the only attempt Chick-fil-A has made to reach an international audience the way McDonald's has. Chick-fil-A attempted to expand into the British market, but their reputation as an anti-LGBTQ organization lost them their foothold twice.

First, Chick-fil-A opened a series of exploratory pop-ups across Britain. The fourth was in Edinburgh in 2018, as covered by Scotsman Food & Drink. They seemed encouraged enough to establish a restaurant in Reading. However, as the BBC reported on October 18, 2019, the company's history of controversial comments and donations caused the shopping center that housed the outlet to decide after only 8 days to not renew Chick-fil-A's contract after their initial six month period.

A week later, PinkNews, a British online newspaper for the LGBTQ community, flagged another branch that had opened in Macdonald Aviemore Resort without the outcry its Reading counterpart received. At the beginning of 2020, they followed up on the story, saying a fierce public boycott had closed this branch as well. Chick-fil-A has not given up hope of establishing a British presence, however. In a statement related by the UK paper The i, the company said, "These insights will help us immensely as we look to having a permanent location in the UK in the future." 

A slow moving giant

While their strained relationship with the LGBTQ community has hampered Chick-fil-A's recent attempts at expansion, it didn't seem to factor into a failed bid to establish Chick-fil-A in South Africa in the 1990s. Back in 1997, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported Chick-fil-A would push into South Africa. When the Knight-Ridder Tribune asked about this choice, Woody Faulk, Chick-fil-A's vice president of international, responded, "There is a currency risk. There is a political risk. You could easily be scared away. But there is a demand for our product everywhere." The attempt ended in 2001, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated that the venture failed to meet expectations. Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy was quoted as saying "it was so awkward trying to get merchandise [to South Africa], as well as employees. It was too far, too fast." The lesson then seems to be one of geography. 

Considering that Chick-fil-A only announced their expansion to Hawaii in 2018, perhaps it isn't surprising that they haven't rapidly pressed on in other countries. Still, as Buzzfeed reported shortly before the announcement, Chick-fil-A was set to become the third-largest chain in the U.S. after McDonald's and Starbucks in terms of sales, even though they have a much smaller presence. The slowness, aside from the controversies, might be explained by Chick-fil-A's strict control over their franchises. Since they pay for the creation of the branch, they will only want to expand where they'll surely succeed.