Chick-fil-A (pronounced [ˌtʃɪkfɨˈlej]) is a restaurant chain headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, that specializes in chicken entrees. It is the second-biggest chicken-based fast-food chain in the United States. The chain is associated with the southern United States, but it has in recent years been expanding into the Rocky Mountains, the southwest and the midwest. , the chain has over 1,300 locations in 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. It is distinct among fast-food chains in that its stores are closed on Sundays.
The chain grew from the Dwarf Grill (later the Dwarf House, a name still used by the chain), a restaurant opened by S. Truett Cathy, who is still the company's chairman, in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville in 1946. This restaurant is located close to the Ford plant, where workers would catch meals between shifts. The first Chick-fil-A opened in Atlanta's Greenbriar Mall in 1967. The current slogan, "We Didn't Invent the Chicken, Just the Chicken Sandwich," is based on a true story: at a time when hamburgers dominated fast-food menus since the beginning, Cathy was credited with creating and inventing the chicken sandwich, which went on to be Chick-fil-A's flagship menu item. His idea for the chicken sandwich stemmed from the idea of creating a quick way to serve food. He discovered that pressure cooking the chicken in peanut oil allowed for a fast serving time. The sandwich also comes with two pickles simply because that was the only condiment he had on hand when the sandwich was created.
Chick-fil-A achieved quite a bit of notability in October 2003, when it was publicly announced in a major ad campaign that a new store, opening in Goodyear, Arizona, on October 16, 2003, would offer, to the first 100 to enter its doors, coupons for a free combo meal every week for a year. Along with this promotion (which was widely featured on the Internet), the company threw a huge opening day carnival, complete with karaoke, free ice cream, klieg lights, and prize raffles. The "First 100" promotion is now held at the opening of every new Chick-fil-A restaurant, with people camping out for up to several days before the opening to guarantee their place in line. Chick-fil-A openings have created quite a fan base, even inspiring such websites as the Chicken Pack, a forum and general meeting place for Chick-fil-A opening fans. Other groups, such as The Herd based out of Knoxville, TN, strive to attend as many grand openings as possible.
Since 1997, the Atlanta-based company has been the title sponsor of the Peach Bowl, an annual college football bowl game played in Atlanta. Beginning in the 2006 season, the Peach Bowl became the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Chick-fil-A also is a key sponsor of the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 conferences of college athletics.
Chick-fil-A offers chicken sandwiches, in both the original pressure-cooked and a grilled version. The pressure-cooked version features a chicken fillet cooked in peanut oil on a toasted, buttered bun with two pickles, with additional toppings available. The grilled version features a chargrilled chicken breast, topped with lettuce, tomato, and two pickles on a wheat bun. Honey roasted barbecue sauce comes with all orders of the grilled sandwich. A club version of the grilled sandwich is additionally topped with bacon and provolone cheese. It also offers chicken nuggets, chicken wraps, chicken strips (which feature pickle flavoring), and salads as well as a breakfast menu featuring biscuits optionally filled with chicken, bacon, sausage, and eggs. The breakfast menu also features Cinnamon Clusters as well as mini yeast rolls filled with chicken. Side dishes include waffle potato fries, cole slaw, chicken noodle soup, carrot & raisin salad, chicken salad, and fruit salads. The restaurant also offers a large dessert menu, composed of soft-serve ice cream (called Ice Dream), brownies, cheesecake, lemon pie, and hand-spun milkshakes.
Occasionally, in their television commercials, the cows "take matters into their own hooves" and become somewhat combative in their efforts to get people to "EAT MOR CHIKIN." One recent Chick-fil-A commercial featured a cow jumping on top of a passing minivan and stealing the occupants' sack of fast-food burgers, much to the shock of a very young boy (whose parents, seated in the front seat, were completely oblivious). The company's TV ad for 2006 featured bovines parachuting onto a football field during a college football game, complete with "EAT MOR CHIKIN" banners, and attacking the hamburger vendor, which Chick-fil-A has posted on YouTube.
The advertising campaign is somewhat inaccurate because the beef-boycotting bovines shown since the first billboard in 1994 are actually Holsteins, a breed of dairy cattle. The error may be a deliberate one as the dairy cow is far more recognizable by consumers and makes for attractive plush dolls. With the introduction of the Chick-fil-A Milkshake (with the dairy cows now promoting a dairy product) the situation has come full circle.
Sometimes these billboards incorporate a little bit of local color or local inside jokes. One such example showed up in Knoxville, Tennessee, during 2003. The billboard was located along Interstate 40 in the West Hills neighborhood and featured an orange (instead of white) background with traffic cones and a cow wearing a safety vest. The text on the billboard read, "CHIKIN ZONE NEXT 3000 MILES," a reference to the lengthy and expensive construction projects that have been the bane of Knoxville motorists since the early 1970s.
Another billboard, located along southbound Interstate 75 on the north side of Atlanta, featured a cow dressed as Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind and the text, "Welcome to Atlanta, where it's proppa to eat chikin."
Another billboard, visible on Interstate 85 northbound, somewhere south of Atlanta, depicts the words "This space for..." with the word "rent" scratched out and replaced with "CHIKIN", as well as a toll-free number that when dialed, directs callers to a recorded message of a man. The man greets you and says that "You have reached the "Bovine Chikin Chatline"". The man goes on to talk about different "bulls" and "heifers" that you can "get to know". Then the man goes on to talk about the cows interests and hobbies, including one whose pet peeves include, "cow tipping and the color red". It is obvious throughout the whole recording that the entire thing is for amusement only. Within the recording, he claims that a bull "loves people who eat chicken, and the folks at Chik-fil-A". In the closing line of the recording, the man encourages the caller to "hang up, and grab some chicken now".
Chick-fil-A has also used a billboard that simply states, "We do chicken left." This was to indicate that the restaurant could be found by taking a left off the interstate exit, but was also a play on the former Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan, "We do chicken right."
The company also produces annual coupon-bearing "cow calendars" every year, featuring bovines in various parodies that have included "The Cow Channel", "Cow Superheroes", "Secret Agent Cows", "Cows in Shining Armor", "The Good, The Bad, and the Hairy", and "One-Hit Wonder Cows".
One notable difference at the Chick-fil-A Dwarf Houses is the novelty "Dwarf-sized" front door that children and some adults can use to enter if they so choose.
The original Dwarf House in Hapeville, Georgia, is open 24 hours a day, and closes at 4:00 AM Sunday morning and re-opens at 6:00 AM on Monday. Known by the locals as "The Dwarf," it is a popular meeting spot for a breakfast, lunch, or late-night meal. Topping the list of must-haves at the original Dwarf House, is the Hot Brown, which the menu board once described as "delicious, different"! The original Dwarf House has the atmosphere that all the other Dwarf Houses aspire to. It is located across the street from the Ford plant that produced the last Ford Taurus, which Truett Cathy bought as a thank you to the Ford plant employees for decades of loyal business..
The McDonough location has become well known for its community involvement, including outside movie nights, firework displays, and a Nugget drop on New Year's Eve.
There is now a new Truett's Grill which opened in 2006 in Griffin, Georgia.
The religious organizations to which Truett Cathy and Chick-fil-A have lent support include such groups as Focus on the Family. Groups researching financial support of religious groups have noted that Truett Cathy is one of the largest corporate sponsors of politically active religious groups in the US, largely through grants from the Truett Cathy Foundation but occasionally through direct sponsorship as well or through partnership with other foundations that are major corporate sponsors of politically active religious groups.
Chick-fil-A has promoted religious groups via toys and CDs included in children's meals, much as movie studios promote new movies via McDonald's Happy Meal toys. These have ranged from including toys from the Christian television series VeggieTales in children's meals to including Financial Peace for Kids children's books by Christian financial guru Dave Ramsey and CDs from the Christian radio program Adventures in Odyssey, as children's meal incentives. The latter show is produced by the radio division of Focus on the Family, and typically heard on Christian radio stations.
Chick-fil-A and Focus on the Family also have a history of cross-promotion. Chick-fil-A has also sponsored meetings by the group All Pro Dad; All Pro Dad is a group with affiliations with Focus on the Family via a group called Family First; Family First promotes a large number of conservative religious causes, including covenant marriage.
Another link between Chick-fil-A and religious groups includes promotion of National Bible Week. Truett Cathy is the chair of the National Bible Week Committee.
Amidst the company's push to the southwest, Las Vegas remains the southernmost metropolitan area without a Chick-fil-A location.
Truett Cathy is also heavily involved in the WinShape Foundation, a non-profit organization which was started in 1984 with its goal to "shape winners" by offering summer camps, retreats, foster care, and other services.
Chick-fil-A's connection to Christianity has even been brought up in court when Aziz Latif, a Houston-based Muslim employee for 6 years, sued the company in 2002 for firing him, alleging that he was fired for his religious beliefs when he had refused to take part in an employee prayer. The suit was settled on undisclosed terms.