Conservative Fried Chicken?

Many know Chick-fil-A as a reliable provider of fast, tasty chicken sandwiches. The very successful company is also, moreover, a generous sponsor of religious and community groups around the country.

Chick-fil-A is one of the largest privately owned restaurant chains–with (as of July 2009) 1,450 restaurants in 38 states and Washington, D.C. It is the second-largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the nation, based on annual sales.

Chick-fil-A is credited with introducing the nation to the original boneless chicken breast sandwich and had system-wide sales in 2008 of $2.96 billion, according to its website. This impressive figure reflected a 12.17% increase over the chain’s 2007 performance.
Chick-fil-A sold more than 247 million chicken sandwiches in 2008. Laid end to end, they would stretch more than 19,490 miles.

Financial success, however, is not the company’s only goal. Thanks to founder S. Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A is one of the largest corporate sponsors of politically active religious groups in the United States, largely through grants from the Truett Cathy Foundation, but occasionally through direct sponsorship.

Closed on Sunday

Every Chick-fil-A location closes every Sunday, because of Cathy’s conviction that some things were more important than business.

“Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and directing our attention to things more important than our business,” says Cathy. “If it took seven days to make a living with a restaurant, then we needed to be in some other line of work. Through the years, I have never wavered from that position.”

A highly acclaimed and recognizable ad campaign as well as clever and generous promotions have also helped to distinguish Chick-fil-A from its competition.

In 2007, the Chick-fil-A “Eat Mor Chikin” Cows were recognized as one of America’s most popular advertising symbols in a public vote sponsored by Advertising Week, and became the newest members of New York’s Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. A permanent banner to recognize this achievement was unveiled on Madison Avenue in 2008.

Cow Appreciation Day, in which costumers are invited to dress up like cows in exchange for a chicken sandwich, “continues to be one of our best indicators of the great passion our customers have for the brand,” says Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s senior vice president of marketing. “It takes a loyal fan to dress like a cow for a free meal. Based on the stories we hear from our restaurant operators around the country, we have quite a large — and growing — base of Chick-fil-A fans. Cow Appreciation Day is our way of thanking them for their loyalty, not to mention a truly fun day!”

On the heels of a record sales year in 2008, Chick-fil-A has sustained its sales momentum thus far in 2009, despite the sluggish economy. As of June, the chain’s system-wide sales are up approximately 10% and same-store sales have improved about 3% at its mall and stand-alone locations. The chain also has opened half of the 65 new restaurants planned for 2009 and the company says it is continuing to reinvest in 70 of its current locations through remodelings.

For the sixth time in the history of the magazine’s study, Chick-fil-A was named by Quick Service Restaurant Magazine as America’s Best Drive-Thru 2009. “Chick-fil-A remains a perennial leader in drive-thru service for one reason: a focus on the basics,” said Sherrie Day Scott, editor of QSR after Chick-fil-A’s win in 2008. “No bells and whistles, no out-of-the-box training systems. Just a strategy focused on getting the right order to the right car in a timely and friendly manner.”

Cathy has used this enormous success to continue the company’s “36-year commitment to education.” The executive has reached his $25 million Leadership Scholarship milestone this year, of which the restaurant chain has allocated $1.4 million in scholarships to be awarded to its restaurant team members.