Chick-fil-A on course to become the 3rd-largest fast food chain in the U.S.

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A few years ago, Chick-fil-A was a p.r. manager’s nightmare, battling boycotts after its Christian COO Dan T. Cathy made statements in opposition to same-sex marriage. But today, Forbes and BuzzFeedNews point to a new Technomic report that says “Chick-fil-A could leapfrog Wendy’s, Burger King and Taco Bell by as early as 2020.” Lovers of the chain’s chicken have ether forgotten about that earlier controversy or don’t care, as Chick-fil-A has focused on a variety of successful innovations to help it pull ahead in the crowded fast-food pack.

For example, Chick-fil-A now has a popular mobile app, with 10 million downloads over the past two years, as well as on-site ordering by tablet and significantly streamlined drive-thru times (BuzzFeedNews reports, “One drive-thru in Oklahoma City recently served 216 cars in one hour, according to a company spokesperson”). It also has integrated menu innovations like a gluten-free bun and grilled chicken nuggets for kids. The chain has opened popular branches in urban areas, like a five-story restaurant in New York, veering from its rural, down-home branding. Consequently, Forbes notes that the QSR Magazine 2017 sales report shows “that the Atlanta-based chain’s average sales per restaurant were $4.4 million–nearly $2 million more than McDonald’s and more than $3.3 million more than KFC,” even though Chick-Fil-A is only open six days a week.

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Still, the brand’s mission statement remains unchanged—“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A”—and all stores remained closed on Sundays. BuzzFeedNews maintains that “Chick-fil-A is trying to move as far away from that [previous] controversy as possible, saying simply that the company treats everyone with ‘honor, dignity and respect,’” as its sales experience growth that other outlets can only envy.

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Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.