Chick-fil-A is not without controversy.While I would argue any controversy is not created by the brand itself, that doesn’t stop it from bubbling up from time to time.
The Christian beliefs of founder S. Truett Cathy are no secret. Instrumental Christian music plays in the background at most restaurants, a Bible verse or the ten commandments may be on the wall, and all stores are famously closed on Sundays.
“Truett Cathy, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours, Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose – a practice we uphold today.”
Chick-fil-A also supports a foundation that gives to community causes and youth programs that align to the company’s mission. Many of those causes have an overtly Christian message.
The music, the Sunday closings, the emphasis on faith and the causes the foundation supports have led some people and organizations to take exception with Chick-fil-A.
In 2012 controversy erupted when CEO Dan Cathy made comments supporting the traditional definition of marriage. More recently the company was attacked for its values and its “creepy infiltration of New York City” in The New Yorker magazine.
While these controversies may give some pause, they don’t seem to sway the Chick-fil-A faithful. Quite the contrary, in 2012 when Cathy’s statements on same-sex marriage were generating significant media attention, many politicians and fans publicly showed their support. Patrons turned out in droves to support the brand and the original chicken sandwich, driving consumer use up 2.2%, a marketshare increase of 0.6% and total ad awareness up 6.5%.
While I trust the Cathy family’s strongly held beliefs are genuine and have nothing to do with marketing, it is clear that Chick-fil-A’s customer base is either supportive or at least tolerate of the message and loyal enough to keep it one of our country’s strongest restaurant brands.