Chick-fil-A grew domestic sales 16.7% in the Latest Year — a net sales gain of just under $1.5 billion — to reach nearly $10.5 billion in U.S. systemwide sales. It was the 12th-fastest-growing chain in the Top 200.
Edging out QSR rivals
That sales total put it behind only McDonald’s, with $38.5 billion in Latest-Year domestic sales, and Starbucks, at $20.5 billion. To reach the No. 3 spot, Chick-fil-A passed four major quick-service brands — Subway, Taco Bell, Burger King and Wendy’s — which now hold the No. 4 through No. 7 ranks, respectively.
Dominating the chicken market
With nearly $10.5 billion Latest-Year domestic sales, Chick-fil-A is by far the largest chicken chain in the country with more than double the domestic sales of the next largest brand, KFC, at $4.4 billion.
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Boosting unit-level sales
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Despite being closed on Sundays, the brand is a sales-per-unit standout, with Estimated Sales Per Unit of $4.6 million in the Latest Year, up 9.6% from $4.2 million in the Preceding Year. It had the second-highest Estimated Sales Per Unit of the 124 counter-service brands in the Top 200.
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The chain has driven sales with a focus on accessibility, through digital innovation and off-premise platforms, to meet what it sees as a “growing demand for food to go.” Efforts have included units focused only on delivery and carry out, a revamped mobile app and loyalty program and a test of meal kits.
Building a cult following
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Chick-fil-A is a perennial top finisher in NRN’s annual Consumer Picks survey, which measures consumer sentiment toward top restaurant brands. Chick-fil-A came in No. 4 overall on the list of most beloved brands, and was No. 1 pick for both chicken and hot sandwiches among limited service brands. It was a top 5 finishers for service, too, with 69% of respondents rating the brand “best in class” or “above average” on that front.
Playing a ‘game of seconds’
Speed of service, particularly at the drive-thru, is a top priority for the chain, which has implemented double order lanes and equipped drive-thru team members with handheld ordering devices to control wait times in peak periods. Last fall the brand celebrated a Louisville, Ky., store on social media for fulfilling 178 car orders in an hour, a company record.
“The drive-thru experience is all a game of seconds,” Carrie Kurlander, the chain’s vice president of external communications told NRN last year. “It’s about putting the right people and technology in the right places to shave off unnecessary time.”
Investing in employees
Chick-fil-A looks to keep turnover low with training programs and other incentives for employees. Parent company Chick-fil-A Inc. has nearly tripled the amount of money available through its Remarkable Futures scholarships over three years, from $4.9 million in 2016 to $15.3 million in 2019. According to the Atlanta-based chain, 90% of surveyed 2018 scholarship recipients said that they planned to continue working at Chick-fil-A because of the scholarship.