- San Antonio Airport has banned Chick-fil-A in response to reporting on the chain's donations of $1.8 million to groups that have been accused of discrimination against the LGBTQ community, according to USA Today. The city's council voted 6-4 last week to refuse the chicken restaurant a place in Terminal A of the Texas airport.
- "San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior," City Councilman Roberto Treviño said.
- Chick-fil-A said in a statement that the airport's decision was "disappointing" and that it would reach out to San Antonio's city council for further discussions. "We agree with the councilmember that everyone should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A. In fact, we have welcomed everyone in San Antonio into our 32 local stores for more than 40 years," the company said in a statement.
Hyper-popular Chick-fil-A continues to gobble up market share in the QSR space, with Technomic recently ranking it No.5 within the top 500 restaurant chains, beating out Wendy's and Burger King. The chicken chain also came out on top of a recent Brand Keys loyalty survey. But San Antonio's cold shoulder could signal that the chain could face financial consequences due to its religious affiliation.
So far, the restaurant has been able to avoid serious backlash, despite CEO Dan Cathy's 2012 statements that the U.S. was inviting "God's judgment" by supporting same-sex marriage, and stated that the chain instead supported "the biblical definition of a family unit."
Despite the views of its leadership, the company's corporate marketing focuses on inclusion. In blog post, for example, Chick-fil-A states that "Our corporate office and our more than 2,300 restaurants nationwide are equal opportunity employers and we have no policy of discrimination against any group. We do not have a political or social agenda and more than 120,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand.”
The strategy, coupled with the chain's dedication to customer service, has been lucrative for Chick-fil-A s far — its "The First 100" tradition is a testament to its customer loyalty. But it will be interesting to see if Chick-fil-A's rivals use this recent spat with San Antonio as an opportunity to position their brands as more inclusive, mission-based and friendly to all consumers. McDonald's, for example, recently partnered with Textio to make its hiring process more inclusive.
Still, Chick-fil-A has managed to thrive in the six years following arguably its worst press — a feat that is especially impressive when compared to how quickly Papa John's declined following founder and former CEO John Schnatter's use of a racist slur in a board meeting.
The chain's recent innovations in meal kits, launch of a "Mom Valet" service service for busy parents and consumer rewards app, which rose to the top of iTunes most downloaded list when it launched in 2016, continue to drive consumer satisfaction. Given this trend, it seems the 62-year-old chain should be able to weather this recent bout of bad PR fairly easily, despite growing consumer interest in politically progressive brands. At the end of the day, customers appear to primarily care about quality food and appreciation.