By Christopher Canadeo
Chick-fil-A has been one of the most dominant and fastest growing fast food chains in the South for decades.
However, according to The New York Times, its newest stunt includes a rapid expansion of the company, beyond rural lines and into the streets of the largest metropolitan area in the country: New York City.
Will Chick-fil-A survive in the concrete jungle? Absolutely. The urban conquest of Chick-fil-A will be extremely successful, especially if they follow these guidelines.
Long ago, Chick-fil-A actually invented fast food in the form of a chicken sandwich and has piggy-backed off of that brilliant idea ever since.
Although Chick-fil-A is entering a new cultural demographic, there is really no need to reinvent its classic product. People already love the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. It is just a matter of getting it to them.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Chick-fil-A has shown consistent, positive growth rates since its opening last year and produced more net sales than Kentucky Fried Chicken, despite having hundreds fewer stores.
Chick-fil-A’s average sales per restaurant in 2014 were $3.1 million, according to the report. Fried chicken competitor KFC sold $960,000 per restaurant. The chain generated nearly $5.8 billion in revenue in 2014, making it the eighth largest fast food chain in the US, according to QSR.
Chick-fil-A has been able to stay in business because no other fast food establishment can top its mastery of the simple, yet savory chicken sandwich.
Although its main competitors, such as McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s have tried to emulate the product, they have failed for two reasons.
One reason is based solely on the fact these fast food companies do not produce a tasty, crispy chicken sandwich like Chick-fil-A does. Other companies’ chicken sandwiches are greasy and are not their main selling point. When you think McDonald’s you think BigMac. When you think Burger King, you think Whopper. When you think Wendy’s, you think Baconator.
This stigma hurts competitors, but not Chick-fil-A. The reputation of their chicken sandwich is one that is, quick, affordable, healthy and tasty.
The fact that Chick-fil-A produces a healthier product than that of other fast food places is a huge advantage in New York City. The capital “A” in Chick-fil-A is capitalized on purpose. It is meant to symbolize “top quality” or “Grade A.”
Due to the quality of the chicken, the oil in which it is fried in and the actual process of producing the chicken, Chick-fil-A has an overall better product than its competitors.
Millennials in New York City are becoming more and more health conscious and to provide a product to them that is healthy with great efficiency will cause a serious increase in profits. Much like other fast food places, Chick-fil-A accompanies its best-seller with an entourage of other fantastic options such as the chicken salad. These products will increase the scope of Chick-Fil-A’s desired customers and bring a wider range of buyers through their door.
One major contrast between a customer in New York City vs a customer in the South is NYC customers generally live at a much faster pace. New Yorkers’ expectations for food production is much higher because they expect it to match their upbeat lifestyle.
Luckily, Chick-fil-A produces its quality products at around the same speed that McDonald’s does.
This is a major plus for Chick-fil-A and means that the average McDonald’s customer in NYC can seamlessly integrate Chick-fil-A into his or her meal rotation without a major stumble in routine.
Another major plus of Chick-fil-A is that it the stores are known for their exceptional service. They provide service with a smile, which often resonates with people as they order food and plays a formidable role in customer retention.
One downside of Chick-fil-A, however, is the history of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s remarks towards African Americans and the LGBTQ+ community.
Cathy has been quite vocal in his disapproval of same-sex marriage and has been quoted saying “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
Cathy is clearly not someone in favor of the progressive actions often taken by the majority of residents in New York City.
The worst possible situation for Chick-fil-A will be if the NYC residents went on strike in the near future. However, considering that has not happened to the few stores that are already in place, I highly doubt a full-scale revolt is in the foreseeable future.
New York City is known for non-sleepers and early risers. This is why the breakfast menu of Chick-fil-A (one of its strengths) will flourish in NYC and will attract an even larger amount of customers.
Chick-fil-A has a complete breakfast menu, much like McDonald’s, but like their main products, the breakfast options are much healthier than that of other food places and is just as efficient.
This fast and high-quality breakfast menu will fit in perfectly with the busy schedules of New York City residents. If Chick-fil-A begins to attract customers to walk into its store before they step in the office every morning, profits will go through the roof.
That being said, it is also important that Chick-fil-A is open extremely late or even all night. While some of the stores already in New York City are open until midnight, a few stores close as early as 10 p.m.
These extra two hours may not seem like much, but in the city that never sleeps, this could be the difference between serving hundreds of customers.
Hungry customers wander the streets of New York City at all times of night, and if they begin to have the cravings for some fast food in an open eatery, it might as well be for Chick-fil-A.
Although I think that Chick-fil-A stores will be extremely profitable in New York City, my one suggestion to them (other than opening on Sundays, which I will back off on because that policy stems back to the company’s religious routes and core values) is to diversify the sides on the menu that can accompany the classic crispy chicken sandwich.
Because chicken is the focus at Chick-fil-A, more effort should be spent into bolstering the quality of sides that accompany the chicken sandwich on the customer’s plate. I really like how they offer various choices such as the type of fries (standard or waffle) and different flavors of milkshakes.
I would even suggest allowing the customer to select what bun they would like their chicken sandwich on such as seeded, non-seeded, or whole wheat so long as it does not greatly diminish the overall taste.
Quality bonded with variety is a recipe for success, and a major reason why companies like Chipotle are successful. They use the same few meats, but sell them in several different forms and styles.
The same can be done with Chick-fil-A by introducing perhaps a chicken pot pie or even selling the whole chicken thigh.
Finally, Chick-fil-A can even further increase its foot traffic through promoting.
Before the first Chick-fil-A store landed in New York City, the craze for this southern fast food delicacy brought lines out the door.
People in boroughs that do not have Chick-fil-A may be attracted to the product just for the sheer novelty of it.
The reputation and brand value of Chick-fil-A is so large that most people in New York City are familiar with the chain even if they have never tried it before. Special events are a great way to attract customers, particularly millennials, and gain recognition in new areas.
Promotions that are advertised on social media are extremely effective ways to add loyal customers to stores and hopefully build long lasting relationships. Offering a free milkshake if a person tweets about what a positive experience they had at the new Chick-fil-A opening is a great example.
Chick-fil-A has all of the necessary attributes to thrive in New York City.
By sticking to its guns and adapting to the millennial lifestyle of the Big Apple, Chick-fil-A will become extremely profitable in all boroughs. Chick-fil-A will bring that southern flavor to a city that is truly hungry for it.
Christopher Canadeo, GSB ’19, is a marketing major from Long Island, New York.