Chick-Fil-A Gets Last Laugh In New York City

Despite liberal opposition, the popular chicken chain shows signs of growth, installing first full NYC restaurant.

In the South, biscuits are a necessary addition to many breakfast – and lunch – plates. Fluffy, flaky, tasty. Those are the three musts when making the right biscuit. And folks in New York City will soon discover just how those three can completely change a chicken sandwich as Chick-fil-A will expands to New York City with its first full-sized location in the nation’s largest city.

Under fire in the past for it’s conservative positions, the Atlanta-based fast food chain will soon plant a 5,000-square-foot imprint in Manhattan, marking the largest restaurant for the chain.

“We’ve had people begging us to come to the city for a long time,” said Ryan Holmes, Chick-fil-A’s urban strategy consultant, to Time Magazine.

With nearly $6 billion in sales last year, the southern chain has dominated the landscape south of the Mason-Dixon with it’s waffle fries and sweet tea to go with their famous chicken sandwiches. Their advertising is nationally known, with cows imploring the public to “Eat Mor Chikin” on billboards and at sporting events. The Chicken Empire of Dixie looks take their success to the north, planning on an additional $1 billion in sales this year as it continues its expansion into Chicago, Iowa, New York and California. At a clip of two new openings a week, Chick-fil-A surpassed it’s biggest competitor in sales Kentucky Fried Chicken two years ago, despite still having only half the number of stores as the Colonel’s.

The New York City opening reinforces the separation people have been making between the food and the founders, as the chain restaurant – famous for being closed on Sundays as a nod to its Christian roots – was under fire from liberal groups for its boss’ positions on gay marriage and previous support for “gay-conversion” programs. A likely selling point, aside from their tasty sandwiches, for customers to keep coming back is its stellar customer service and lower prices compared to McDonald’s and Burger King. There is also the health factor, as chicken is still seen as the healthier option than beef.

“Their store format and their menu offerings actually are very ahead of the curve,” said Andrew Alvarez, a research analyst for IBISWorld.

The company hopes to attract tourists ambling through New York looking for a familiar place to grab a quick bite while also attracting the fast-paced employees needing to grab and go. The ground floor of the restaurant will have eight employees taking orders on iPads while they wait in line to pick up the food, helping to increase throughput time for customers. Upstairs, Chick-fil-A will have a seating area for up to 80 people in an atmosphere similar to the new, more modern, looks McDonald’s and Wendy’s have recently employed. The basement will feature a full kitchen for preparing biscuits and catering products.

This expansion will be a challenge, despite the regularly topping customer satisfaction lists. Qdoba, a fast-casual Mexican chain competitive to Chipotle, tried to expand into the Big Apple, and failed. Other locations have tried to actively thwart Chick-fil-A’s attempts at expansion, citing CEO Dan Cathy’s opposition to gay marriage. City Council members in Denver initially opposed the chain’s expansion into Denver International Airport on fear the profits would be used to “fuel discrimination.” The location was eventually approved.

Cathy later said the company would refrain from engaging in political debates any further. When the U.S. Supreme Court recently legalized same-sex marriage, Chick-fil-A was conspicuously silent.

“If you’re in a market like New York and all you know about Chick-fil-A is what you’ve read, you may have one perception,” David Farmer, vice president for menu strategy and development, told Time. “We want to demonstrate to folks that we’re not against anybody. You can say that, but you’ve got to prove that. We consider it an honor to serve you. We’re hoping we get to do that, even with folks that are skeptics.”

Despite the fears of failure, analysts believe Chick-fil-A will gain traction in New York. The company has further plans to expand near Rockefeller Center next year and is looking at other locations throughout the city. In the future, the chicken chain wants to expand into other parts of New England.

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