Chick-fil-A Doesn’t Want You to Know These Surprising Secrets About Their Business
Cravings for Chick-fil-A chicken have swept the nation. From milkshakes to chicken minis to those delectable sauces, people just can’t escape the pull. But even Chick-fil-A has amassed a few naysayers expressing their hatred for the company. The founders have been known to dabble in politics unapologetically, kicking up controversy and backlash typical of America’s largest corporations.
Despite being one of the most successful and beloved fast food chains in America, Chick-fil-A still has a few secrets up its sleeves. Some are overwhelmingly good while others will make you cringe. Either way, you’ll want to know these 15 most surprising secrets about Chick-fil-A’s business model before your next visit.
1. They once pretended to be a teenage girl online
Chick-fil-A denied allegations that its PR people pretended to be a teenage girl on Facebook in 2012. A thread on the restaurant chain’s page showed a commenter defending Chick-fil-A via a fake account created just hours beforehand. This, of course, came after the company was being raked over the coals for controversial anti-gay marriage comments made by COO Dan Cathy. Chick-fil-A denied any involvement, but the internet — and the teenage stock photo used on the page — begs to differ.
Next: Employees confess these juicy secrets
2. Free food comes pretty easily
Of course, Chick-fil-A’s bottom lines would prefer customers don’t walk away with free food very often, but that didn’t stop employees from divulging the easiest ways to do so in a Buzzfeed article. The secrets?
- Download the Chick-fil-A app for a free sandwich.
- Ask for samples of Chicken minis and they’ll be free
- Customers wearing anything with cow print get free food
- Ask for chicken biscuits at 11 a.m., which are usually free after the breakfast rush.
Next: A dark side of employment
3. They have a history of alleged employee discrimination
It’s a solid bet to guess many Chick-fil-A loyalists are unaware of the company’s history of employment discrimination. A 2007 Forbes article suggested Chick-fil-A’s cult-like culture prefers to hire only married people because they are more productive. Other, more recent discrimination accusations revolve around a few locations refusing to hire employees with disabilities — a direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The company also takes issue with same-sex marriages, but we’ll get into more of that later.
Next: A charitable caveat
4. They are selectively charitable
The company is very charitable through the Chick-fil-A foundation. They’ve donated $68 million to more than 700 educational and charitable organizations, according to the company, and awarded more than $19 million in college scholarship money.
On the flip side, many Americans would be disappointed to learn that Cathy’s charitable ways seem grounded in Christian faith only. For example, the company still funnels stacks of cash to organizations like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, The Salvation Army, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home, all of whom are historically anti-gay groups.
Next: How to rise through the ranks
5. You can go from employee to franchise owner in just a few years
In fact, the restaurant chain’s most recent franchise owner is a 26-year-old woman in Atlanta. Accomplishing such a feat may be easier if you rise through the ranks. She began working as a part-time employee at age 15 before becoming the youngest owner in franchise history.
Think ownership is for you, too? We suggest you look at the fine print first. Though cheap — opening a Chick-fil-A restaurant only costs $10,000 — the competition is high. The chain receives more than 20,000 applications per year and chooses only 80. This means you have less than a 1% chance of becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee.
Next: Can you order more than just chicken?
6. There are only three states without a Chick-fil-A
Forty-seven states are blessed to have Chick-fil-A sandwiches and lemonade in their lives. But three states aren’t as lucky. The unfortunate ones are Alaska, Hawaii, and Vermont. Ironically though, one of Chick-fil-A’s largest restaurants in Fayetteville, Georgia boasts a Hawaiian-inspired theme. What’s even more poignant and unconventional is that the 8,00 square foot restaurant dubbed Truett’s Luau offers seafood, pork, and chicken options.
Next: For those in the know
7. There is a secret menu
On the surface, there is little ambiguity in Chick-fil-A’s menu. Stop in for a bite, and you’re likely going to leave with chicken. But did you know there’s a secret Chick-fil-A menu you can ask for and your servers won’t even blink? Employees did reveal them publicly, but the items are kept under wraps and available only to those in the know. The hidden list includes tasty items such as a double-decker sandwich, cheese fries, a chicken quesadilla, lettuce-wrapped sandwiches, and a root beer float.
Next: Recipe secrets
8. They actually do own the original chicken sandwich
The highest ranking — and top-selling — chicken chain in the nation claims they are “The home of the original chicken sandwich”. This sentiment is more than just a slogan, it’s actually true. Chick-fil-A’s founder invented the chicken sammy in 1964 when a shipment of chicken breast too large to serve as airline food was delivered so he decided to make it for shift workers instead.
The ultra-secret recipe is locked in a safe in its Atlanta headquarters, and it hasn’t changed in 50 years.
Next: A secret they actually prefer you know
9. They are Christian — and they don’t care if you know it
The fact that Chick-fil-A is a Christian company is far from secret. In fact, the company publicly advocates observing the Sabbath heavily by requiring all restaurants to close on Sundays.
Chick-fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy once discussed how important faith was in forming their business plan with Baptist Press saying, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.”
Next: Political fallouts
10. They are also conservative
2012 was a rough year for Chick-fil-A as they came under fire for donating millions to anti-gay marriage groups. Dan Cathy (the son of founder Truett Cathy) only confirmed the companies conservative beliefs after the uproar saying they were “guilty as charged”, which angered everyday Americans even more. It’s not uncommon for protestors to riot outside new franchises, like they did when a new Chick-fil-A opened in an ultra-liberal part of New York City.
These days, the company is attempting to shed its perceived extremist title by urging franchisees to refrain from making overly-political public comments to the press.
Next: A secret to success
11. They are the largest buyer of peanut oil
There are numerous secret seasonings marinating together in Chick-fil-A chicken, but the chain’s culinary managers swear it’s the peanut oil that makes their items near impossible to replicate. Chick-fil-A is the single largest buyer of peanut oil in the U.S.
The decision to use peanut oil over, say, a blend of countless different vegetable oils like McDonald’s uses, came down to heart-healthy monosaturated fats. Chick-fil-A peanut oil is naturally free of trans fats.
Next: Breaking records
12. They buy the most lemons, too
Ever wonder what makes you crave Chick-fil-A’s infamous lemonade? The recipe is a labor of love, hand-crafted at each restaurant and made from scratch daily. The restaurant chain squeezed 300 million Sunkist lemons in 2016, making them the largest buyer of Sunkist lemons in the world. A press release said the chain purchased more lemons than the entire country of Japan in 2014.
Next: What’s in a name?
13. The name was on purpose
Founder Truett Cathy wanted Chick-fil-A’s name to signify the presence of quality food. So, he compared chicken breasts he used to the best cut of beef — a beef fillet, and the Chick-fil-A name was born. Even the “A” is capitalized to signal top quality.
But the name wasn’t always so catchy. Before that, Cathy opened the Dwarf House in 1946 which ironically specialized in hamburgers and steaks. It’s clear today that chicken reigns supreme.
Next: Chick-fil-A life hacks you’ll want to remember
14. Scoring fresh sammies requires a little extra effort
Current and former employees also offered ways to guarantee fresh food at Chick-fil-A to Buzzfeed. They say customers can score the freshest sandwich possible by adding, or getting rid of, items. Food life hack No. 1? Nab extra crispy fries by asking for your waffle fries well done. Life hack No.2? Ask for a chicken sammy sans pickles for a fresh sandwich. Life hack No. 3? You can add bacon to any sandwich. Gasp!
Next: What is elevated language?
15. Employees are trained to be ‘extra courteous’
Much is said about Chick-fil-A’s commitment to customer service using “elevated language.” Anyone who’s eaten at the chain will notice employees never say “you’re welcome,” and instead say “my pleasure.” But according to employees on this reddit thread, the pleasure statement is not official training practice at all, rather a learned behavior. “We are literally told in training and reminded constantly to be ‘aggressively courteous’ there are literal steps on how to do it,” the employee confessed. “I won’t tell you those steps so the sweetness remains genuine.”