Chick-fil-A has its eyes on a much broader market. The Wall Street Journal reports the fast-food chain, which originated in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, is planning a $1 billion expansion into Europe and Asia. The first stores in the regions will open by 2026, and by 2030 the company hopes to be in five international markets.
The number of stores that Chick-fil-A plans to open is still undetermined. The company says it plans to utilize the same rules it currently has for franchisees with overseas partners, limiting them to one restaurant per franchisee.
Chick-fil-A has attempted an international expansion before, but has not found success beyond U.S. borders. A South African location opened in 1996 only to close six years later, having failed to build brand awareness. And a location in the U.K. only lasted a few months in 2019, following protests from gay rights advocates.
Ventures into Canada and Puerto Rico have proved more successful.
“We feel like it’s time to continue to innovate and try and test how we will do in international markets, so that we can learn,” Andrew Cathy, CEO of the company, told the Journal.
Chick-fil-A is regularly ranked as Americans’ favorite fast-food chain by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, taking the title for eight consecutive years. The company is far from free of controversy, however.
In 2012, then-CEO Dan Cathy characterized the U.S. as “inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and we say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” That sparked a backlash that has yet to cool down.
Critics also point to an incident last year when a location in Hendersonville, N.C., offered to pay “volunteers” to work its drive-thru and earn food instead of cash. The store was later fined by the Labor Department for the move.
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