- Chick-fil-A opened a pilot licensed location on Thursday in Reading, England, according to Business Insider. It previously tested the UK market with a popup location.
- "This location will help us understand more about consumer interest in our brand and signature menu items," a spokesperson told Business Insider.
- The company is now in three countries after opening up in Toronto, Canada earlier this year. It also plans to add at least 15 locations in Toronto within the next five years.
Chick-fil-A's expansion across the pond could be problematic for its QSR counterparts that have been mainstays in the U.K., including McDonald’s and KFC. KFC grew same-store sales by 18% year-to-date in the country so far this year. McDonald’s U.K., which has over 1200 restaurants in the country, has had 53 consecutive quarters of same store sales growth as of Q2 2019 and was one of the key contributors for the company’s international operated segment, which grew 6.6% during the quarter.
It will also see new competition, with Wendy’s planning to head to the U.K. within the next 12 to 18 months as part of its first phase of its international expansion, executives said during Thursday’s Investor Day presentation. Tim Hortons, Five Guys, Krispy Kreme and Denny’s have also had success in this market.
While Chick-fil-A has been widely popular in the U.S. and has scored high in customer service and food quality, its reputation and negative media attention about company donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations could impact its perception abroad, especially with more politically progressive markets. It’s already received some backlash in a handful of U.S. cities that have tried to block future development plans.
If it does gain momentum abroad, it could start to chip away at McDonald's global market share, especially if it decides to go to Asia, where chicken brands have been particularly popular.