False Things You Believe About Chick-Fil-A

Renowned for its iconic Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich and delicious Waffled Potato Fries, Chick-fil-A has grown into one of the most crave-able fast-food restaurants in the U.S. since first opening its doors in 1967. Today, the fast-food chain boasts over 2,700 restaurants that employ over 170,000 staff members (via Chick-fil-A). According to a QSR Revenue Report, in 2020, Chick-fil-A made more revenue per store than any other fast food joint in the U.S. For example, while McDonald's earned an average of $2,944,000 per store and Taco Bell made $1,648,000 per store, the figure stood at around $5,013,000 for Chick-fil-A outlets, though the chain came in third for revenue overall, only beat out by McDonald's and Starbucks. 

While Chick-fil-A is clearly raking in the big bucks, the franchise has experienced its fair share of controversy. From religious overtones and donations to anti-LGBTQ groups to employment discrimination claims, Chick-fil-A has been heavily criticized for its practices (via Forbes). Ready to separate fact from fiction? Keep reading to find out more about Chick-fil-A's menu and business model.

The classic Chick-fil-A Sandwich is a Chick-fil-A invention

There's little doubt that the Chick-fil-A Sandwich is CFA's signature menu item. Made with seasoned, breaded chicken breasts, topped with dill pickle slices, and served on a buttered bun, Chick-fil-A is a darling of America's fast-food industry. However, not many realize that the sandwich wasn't actually invented at the fast-food restaurant. In fact, the menu item was first created at the Dwarf House in 1964, a diner-style fast food joint opened by the founder of Chick-fil-A, S. Truett Cathy, in 1946 as the Dwarf Grill (via Chick-fil-A).

The Chick-fil-A Sandwich had its beginnings when an Atlanta poultry supplier asked Cathy to help him offload unusually-sized chicken pieces. The supplier had been asked by an airline to deliver chicken breasts small enough to fit in the trays of in-flight serving trays, leaving him with irregular chicken pieces. Cathy started buying the leftover chicken and frying it up in a pressure cooker (via Chick-fil-A) — a trick he learned from his mother to speed up the time it takes to cook chicken. Another crucial part of what makes the sandwich so tasty is that since the inception of the sandwich peanut oil is the only oil used to fry the chicken. 

It took Cathy years to find the perfect blend of spices for his Chick-fil-A Sandwich. Today, the 20-plus ingredient recipe remains locked in a safe at the Chick-fil-A headquarters in Atlanta with only one person privy to the code. Those interested can see the safe on a tour of Chick-fil-A's Home Office (via Chick-fil-A).

It's easy to become a Chick-fil-A operator

There are thousands of Chick-fil-A outlets run by franchise owners known in the chain's lingo as operators (via Chick-fil-A). So what does it take to become a part of one of the top fast-food chains in America? While the initial franchise investment may only be $10,000, Chick-fil-A is picky about whom it lets into its fold. And the chain attracts a lot of franchisee applicants — the figure stands at around 20,000 per year with only between 70 and 100 granted the privilege of running an outlet (via Franchise Chatter).

Franchise operators who pass Chick-fil-A's selection process have to be prepared to accept the chain's unusual business model. The restaurant's franchisees are expected to partake in the chain's hands-on approach and give back to the community through various social programs (via Chick-fil-A). "We're seeking people with character rather than experience. If you can't manage your own life, how do you expect to manage a business?" founder Cathy once told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Franchise Chatter).

Chick-fil-A's franchisees also need to accept the chain's stringent business conditions. One of these is that the chain determines the location of each outlet. It also retains the ownership of the land, which means that franchise owners can't sell their outlets or pass them on after they die. The hit is also financial. Each operator has to relinquish 50% of their pre-tax profits to the franchise and pay 15% of its sales for equipment hire.

Chick-fil-A doesn't offer healthy food options

Fast food isn't exactly known for shying away from calories, fat, and sodium, and Chick-fil-A is no exception. Take the Chick-fil-A Spicy Deluxe Sandwich, for example. The menu item, which comes with fried chicken and Pepper Jack cheese, contains 550 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 1810 milligrams of sodium. Then there are the Large Chick-fil-A Waffle Potato Fries with 600 calories and 35 grams of fat (via Chick-fil-A).

Luckily, with a bit of forethought, you can make your Chick-fil-A dining experience a little — or even a lot — healthier. Perhaps the best option on the menu for those concerned about their weight and physical well-being is the Greek Yogurt Parfait with Granola with 270 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 80 milligrams of sodium. Other decent options include the Fruit Cup, the Egg White Grill, and the Hash Brown Scramble Bowl.

If you're after some chicken (all antibiotic-free) in your meal, Noom recommends opting for the Grilled Chicken Sandwich instead of its fried counterpart. The menu item has 380 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 755 milligrams of sodium. An 8-count of Grilled Chicken Nuggets is also a decent option clocking in at 130 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 440 milligrams of sodium. There's also the Market Salad with Grilled Chicken Filet with 540 calories, 31 grams of fat, and 1020 milligrams of sodium.

Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich is the most popular Chick-fil-A menu item

While the first thing that may come to mind when thinking about Chick-fil-A is its signature chicken sandwich, the menu item is not the chain's most popular offering. In fact, in 2021, Chick-fil-A's most-ordered menu item across the U.S. was their Waffle Potato Fries. The Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich was the franchise's second most popular food item in the Southern and Atlantic regions. Meanwhile, the Chick-fil-A Nuggets took the second spot in the Northeast, Midwest, West, and Southwest (via Chick-fil-A).

While Waffle Potato Fries have been a hit with Chick-fil-A customers, the franchise's Sweet Potato Waffle Fries didn't do so well. Released in May of 2011, the fries only remained on the menu through August of that year. According to the Senior Manager of Culinary, Product Strategy, and Development at Chick-fil-A, Shona Jonson, the fries didn't take off due to their cost — sweet potatoes are three times as expensive as white potatoes.  

"Guests were initially excited to try the Sweet Potato Waffle Fry ... Customers indicated they liked the overall taste, were likely to purchase it in the future, and felt the quality was consistent with Chick-fil-A. However, over time we saw [that] customers did not feel the fry was worth the additional cost, and they slowly began not ordering it," she said (via Chick-fil-A).

Chick-fil-A doesn't update its menu

For some of us, there's nothing better than tried and true classic menu items. Others love the ever-changing offerings of some fast food joints. Chick-fil-A tries to satisfy fast service restaurant enthusiasts who fall into the second category. Aside from its original menu, the franchise taste-tests a plethora of new recipes to cater to new fads. "We're always testing out new ideas for our menu, but only a few of these concepts actually make it to the restaurant," states the Chick-fil-A website. One offering that seems to have withstood the test of time is the Grilled Spicy Deluxe Chicken Sandwich. According to Fox News, the spin on the grilled classic was introduced in 2017 and the item still features on the restaurant's menu.

While some menu inventions become Chick-fil-A staples, others, such as the Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls, disappear just as quickly as they make an entrance. Others are discontinued to the disappointment of their fans. In 2015, the chain stopped serving its Coleslaw after 49 years. And some diners weren't happy, voicing their anger on the internet. 

"Thousands of customers are boycotting your establishment and refusing to stop in until you put it back on your menu. Now do the right thing or have a fork stuck in you because you will be done," one person wrote on a social media platform (via Business Insider). In order to appease fans of the cabbage dish, the fast chain has now posted the Coleslaw recipe on its website.

Chick-fil-A still makes donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations

Over the years Chick-fil-A has made headlines with its controversial donation initiatives. More specifically, the fast-food giant has donated money to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) — both organizations are known for taking a stance against homosexuality and same-sex marriage (via CNN Business). For example, in 2018, the chain donated $1.65 million to the FCA and $115,000 to The Salvation Army (via Chick-fil-A Foundation).

The backlash against Chick-fil-A had been pointed out: "If You Really Love LGBTQ People, You Just Can't Keep Eating Chick-fil-A," one 2018 headline reads (via HuffPost). In 2019, the San Antonio City Council banned the franchise from opening an outlet at the San Antonio airport due to a "legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior." (via Fox News).

Likely affected by the bad publicity, Chick-fil-A stopped making donations to the two organizations back in 2020. The franchise highlighted that from the beginning of that year, it would only support organizations with a focus on hunger, education, and homelessness. This included donations to Covenant House International, Junior Achievement USA, and local food banks.

There's a Chick-fil-A in every state

While there are more than 2,700 Chick-fil-A restaurants across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada, the chain remains unrepresented in three states: Alaska, Vermont, and Hawaii (via Chick-fil-A). According to the writer for Eat This, Not That, Owen Duff, there may be a number of reasons why Chick-fil-A hasn't taken off in Vermont. And while he speculates that the reason may be the state's sparse population, he also comes up with another theory. Back in 2011, Chick-fil-A entered into a three-year legal dispute with a Vermont silk-screen artist Robert Muller-Moore over his "Eat More Kale" slogan. The chain alleged that the tagline was too similar to its "Eat Mor Chikin" trademark. Muller-Moore received support from Vermont's governor, eventually winning the case.

So what about Hawaii and Alaska? Currently, Chick-fil-A has four outlets slated for a 2022 opening in the Aloha State. The chain has already held groundbreaking ceremonies in two locations in Honolulu. There will also be a Chick-fil-A location in Kahului and another one in Kapolei (via Hawaii News Now). While it's unclear why there are no Chick-fil-A outlets in Alaska, some definitely aren't happy about the omission, as evidenced by the "Alaska needs a Chick-fil-A" petition on Change.org and "Anchorage Needs Chick-Fil-A" Facebook page.

There's no secret Chick-fil-A menu

According to Chick-fil-A, the franchise has no secret menu. However, customers are welcome to "order in creative ways." There's even a creative order suggestion on the Chick-fil-A website, "Want a buffalo chicken sandwich? Order the Chick-fil-A Original Chicken Sandwich and top it with the Zesty Buffalo Sauce!" Despite the franchise's claim, many swear by its so-called secret menu items, which makes us wonder whether it all just comes down to the definition of what a secret menu is.

According to Country Living, the Chick-fil-A secret menu is real. And the unofficial menu is jam-packed with secret menu combinations and hacks discovered by the chain's customers over the years. Here're just a few ideas posted by the restaurant's fans on social media: To get two rather than one patty, ask for a double-decker version of any Chick-fil-A sandwich. And while this may not be the healthiest idea, you can also replace the grilled chicken on the Grilled Chicken Club sandwich with its fried counterpart. 

After a root beer float? Why not ask for a scoop of ice cream in your cold root beer (via First We Feast).

Chick-fil-A only employs Christians

When Cathy first opened Chick-fil-A in 1967, he wasn't shy about adding a big dollop of Christianity into his business model — after all, he was a devout evangelical Southern Baptist. Years later, the connection remains. All Chick-fil-A outlets are still closed on Sundays to enable its employees to go to church and spend time with their loved ones (via Forbes). 

"Closing our business on Sunday, the Lord's Day, is our way of honoring God and showing our loyalty to Him," Cathy explains in his book "Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People" (via Business Insider). With Cathy's vehement support of religious ethos, it stands to reason that many believe that the chain only employs Christians. After all, the restaurant's founder once proclaimed that while "the Lord has never spoken to [him], ... Chick-fil-A has been His gift." 

While being Christian has never been a prerequisite for working at the franchise — in fact asking a prospective employee about their religious affiliation is "problematic under federal law" according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Cathy has addressed the matter saying, "You don't have to be a Christian to work at Chick-fil-A, but we ask you to base your business on biblical principles because they work (via Brainy Quote).