Chick-fil-A: A Model of Success in the Fast Food Industry


Chick-fil-A is a shining example of a company that believes in doing things exceptionally well. With its laser-like focus on customer service and a small but beloved menu, Chick-fil-A has carved out its own unique niche in the fast food industry. Unlike other restaurants that strive to attract a wide customer base with diverse menus, Chick-fil-A remains dedicated to perfecting one thing: the chicken sandwich.

The “A” in Chick-fil-A stands for “A-top quality.” The business prides itself on providing customers with top-notch service and has become renowned for its exceptional customer satisfaction. Chick-fil-A’s restaurants are owned by the company itself, but they also partner with selected franchisees who undergo rigorous training to ensure they meet the brand’s high standards.

Each year, Chick-fil-A’s revenue continues to grow, with an average annual increase of 8%. This success can be attributed to the company’s unwavering commitment to delivering quality food and outstanding service.

A Brief History of Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A’s journey began in 1946 when CEO S. Truett Cathy opened a restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. Located near the Ford Motor Company Atlanta Assembly plant, the business quickly gained popularity among the plant’s employees.

In 1961, Cathy stumbled upon a pressure fryer that could cook chicken sandwiches quickly, similar to the speed of cooking fast-food hamburgers. This discovery led him to focus primarily on perfecting the chicken sandwich. He trademarked the brand as Chick-fil-A Inc., with the famous slogan “We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich.” Chick-fil-A became the first national chain to prominently feature the fried chicken sandwich on its menu.

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In the following years, the brand licensed the sandwich to over fifty eateries. However, in 1967, the decision was made to withdraw the license when the first stand-alone Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall. From the ’70s and ’80s, the chain continued to expand by opening locations in mall food courts and gradually expanding beyond.

Who Owns Chick-fil-A?

Chick-fil-A is a family-owned business that has been passed down through generations. It started with founder S. Truett Cathy and is now owned by his two sons, Dan and Bubba Cathy. Dan serves as the chairman, Andrew Cathy (Dan’s son) is the CEO, and Bubba remains the executive vice president.

How Chick-fil-A Makes Money

Chick-fil-A’s revenue primarily comes from two sources: 15% of total sales from franchisees and 50% from all franchisees. This revenue model yields some of the highest returns in the food chain industry.

Chick-fil-A takes a unique approach to franchising compared to other companies in the industry. While most fast-food chains require potential franchisees to meet a certain net worth requirement and pay a significant amount for the brand name, Chick-fil-A operates differently. The franchisee, or operator, is responsible for acquiring and developing properties using their own funds. Chick-fil-A contributes only 20% to 30% of the business, while the franchisee covers the remaining 70% to 80% in expenses. This unconventional structure allows franchisees to earn the majority of the profits, with royalties ranging from 4% to 8%, excluding the 2% to 6% advertising fee.

Chick-fil-A, on the other hand, retains ownership of the business and provides ongoing support and guidance to the operators. The brand’s unique approach results in a high return of 15% of sales, plus 50% of any profit made.

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Chick-fil-A’s Business Model Canvas

Chick-fil-A’s business model can be analyzed using the following business model canvas:

Customer Segments

  • Buyers: Loyal customers who appreciate the brand’s commitment to quality and exceptional customer care.
  • Operators: Specially selected individuals who have proven themselves capable of managing and leading a Chick-fil-A outlet.

Value Propositions

  • Customer communication: Chick-fil-A prioritizes communication with its customers and seeks innovative ways to gather feedback, ensuring smooth transactions and customer satisfaction.
  • Operators’ service: Operators are actively involved in monitoring customers’ experiences, enabling quick decision-making to fulfill customer requests.


  • Website
  • Social media
  • Franchisees/Restaurants
  • Application

Customer Relationships

  • Through social media
  • Customer service
  • Community service

Revenue Streams

  • Royalties
  • Profits from restaurant sales
  • License fees

Key Resources

  • Brand
  • Supplier network
  • Real estate
  • 2,000+ locations (as of 2021)
  • Farms

Key Activities

  • In-store product sales
  • Drive-through operations
  • Payment processing procedures
  • Research and development of new products and services

Key Partners

  • SEC and ACC (college athletics events)
  • West Coast farms
  • Barn Raised Chicken Farms
  • The Children’s Cancer Center

Cost Structure

  • Franchise fee of $10,000
  • Marketing fee
  • Fixed and current assets costs
  • Salary and inventory maintenance

Chick-fil-A’s Competitors

Chick-fil-A faces competition from several major players in the fast food industry:

  • McDonald’s: The world’s most famous and largest fast-food restaurant, serving 70 million customers daily across over 38,000 locations in more than 100 countries. McDonald’s is renowned for its hamburgers.

  • KFC: The second-largest fast-food chain after McDonald’s, with over 22,621 locations in 150 countries. KFC specializes in its unique fried chicken recipe and operates around 60% of its outlets as franchises.

  • Wendy’s: The third-largest hamburger seller in the U.S., with over 5,938 restaurants. Wendy’s focuses on price minimization and larger portion sizes compared to Chick-fil-A.

  • Subway: Primarily a franchised business with over 21,700 locations worldwide. Subway stands out for its wide variety of vegan food options, appealing to health-conscious consumers.

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Chick-fil-A’s SWOT Analysis

Here is a detailed SWOT analysis of Chick-fil-A:


  • Excellent customer service that sets Chick-fil-A apart from its competitors.
  • A menu that has become a favorite among loyal customers.
  • A commitment to sponsorships and donations to major events and charities.
  • Ownership structure that allows the company to maintain control over its brand decisions.
  • A focus on employee satisfaction, offering opportunities for career advancement and emergency funds.


  • Limited menu options, potentially limiting customer appeal.
  • Limited global presence, mostly known within the U.S.
  • Higher prices compared to some competitors, making it less accessible to lower-income groups.
  • A somewhat rigid structure that may hinder innovation and change.


  • Expansion into international markets to increase profitability and brand awareness.
  • Introducing new menu items to attract a broader customer base.
  • Capitalizing on the growing demand for healthier fast food options.


  • Economic and political changes that could impact the business’s stability.
  • Intense competition in the fast food industry, forcing innovation to stay relevant.


Chick-fil-A has captured the hearts of many Americans through its exceptional customer service, renowned menu, and commitment to giving back to the community. The brand’s unconventional approach to franchising has also contributed to its success. In addition to its food and service, Chick-fil-A is known for its corporate social responsibility, sponsoring major events and supporting non-profit organizations.

To continue thriving, Chick-fil-A should be willing to venture beyond its traditional operations and embrace new opportunities for menu expansion, geographic growth, and innovative business ventures. With its customer-centric approach and dedication to excellence, Chick-fil-A is well-positioned for continued success in the fast food industry.

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