In a sea of electric-hued burgers, "O"-shaped chicken rings, and fried chicken patties masquerading as sandwich buns, Chick-fil-A's menu stands out. Unlike many of its fast-food brethren, the chicken chain has shunned gimmicks in favor of a relatively forthright menu — by fast-food standards, anyway. While KFC was busy touting the latest iteration of the Double Down, Chick-fil-A quietly introduced a new salad. While McDonald's was shilling mozzarella sticks, Chick-fil-A unveiled a fairly unremarkable new line of sauces.
Though it stays away from buzzy novelty foods, and in spite of statements against gay marriage made by Chick-fil-A's CEO Dan Cathy in 2012 — which caused an uproar across the country — the chicken chain is growing faster than ever before. A simple, straightforward approach is yielding record sales and rapid expansion for Chick-fil-A. Here's why the chicken chain comes out on top in customer service polls year after year.
From its unusually chipper employees to a steadfast adherence to religious values (it's famously closed on Sundays), the chain seems almost... humble. But the red and white exterior of its some 1,950 locations belie a fast food workhorse, one that has not only usurped the drive-thru fried chicken throne from the much larger KFC (which had 4,270 U.S. locations at the end of 2015), but is now more profitable than every pizza brand in the country.
The average Chick-fil-A location brings in more than three times as much revenue as the average KFC, according to QSR Magazine. And despite the fact that it has fewer than half the locations of its fried chicken rival, it is growing at an astounding rate. Over the past five years, Chick-fil-A has opened an average of 95 locations each year. KFC, on the other hand, opened 10 restaurants in the U.S. in 2015, and plans to open 22 in 2016.
So what's behind this success? And what does this mean about the changing tastes of American consumers? More than ever before, chain restaurants are listening to what consumers want, developing new products after rigorous trials, and using technology to streamline internal systems and reach a new audience. Based on public opinion and earnings, Chick-fil-A understands what today's diner wants, and is delivering it with an increasing amount of precision.