What Is Chick-Fil-A’s Core Competence?

 

That would be chicken, yes? Finally, a couple of years ago, we got our first Chick-Fil-A here in the Pacific Northwest, and it has met all our expectations. Most stores are busy all day long, with lines at the drive-through and tables filled inside. The employees are as nice and courteous as can be, reflecting the values of the chain’s owners. New stores generate lots of excitement and long lines as soon as they open. And the food is wonderful.

But a story I read today on Fox News indicates that they may be contemplating what I consider a very bad move. They are considering adding “fake chicken” to their menu. Why, pray tell, would a restaurant chain that makes the best chicken sandwiches around consider adding “vegan” options? What would a vegan want at a store that specializes in chicken?

Personally, I don’t think the owners of Chick-Fil-A should potentially damage their brand by trying to appeal to people who don’t want their product in the first place. Besides, what percentage of vegans are the worst kind of progressive, the ones who try to ban Chick-Fil-A from college campuses? And the ones who disparage the owners for their Christian beliefs? If I were the Cathy family, I would drop this bad idea. Am I totally wrong on this?

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There are 51 comments.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor

    Vegetarians and vegans are part of families like everyone else and restaurants are making some minor effort to put some additional items on a menu so everyone in a group of five or six has something they can order. I don’t see it as political, or an attempt to sway their image. As one example, my local Italian place here isn’t part of a national chain, and they’ve added a couple of things like eggplant parmigiana and salads; not exactly Saul Alinsky food. 

    Sometimes a cup of cole slaw is just a cup of cole slaw. 

    • #1
    • May 13, 2019, at 7:46 PM PDT
    • 28 likes
  2. Kay of MT Member

    I, sadly, cannot eat at Chick-fil-a, as they use soy oil with everything, to cook, mix or blend. A few years ago we got our first one, still packed with people. I wouldn’t mind having a salad option that wasn’t sprayed with soy oil.

    • #2
    • May 13, 2019, at 7:55 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Addiction Is A Choice Member

    And next maybe Chick-Fil-A could get really edgy and center a whole campaign around “Drag Moms“…Oh, wait, that was Chips Ahoy…

    Hi, @kayofmt, we’re still sending those powerful waves!!

    • #3
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:01 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  4. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Vegetarians and vegans are part of families like everyone else and restaurants are making some minor effort to put some additional items on a menu so everyone in a group of five or six has something they can order. I don’t see it as political, or an attempt to sway their image. As one example, my local Italian place here isn’t part of a national chain, and they’ve added a couple of things like eggplant parmigiana and salads; not exactly Saul Alinsky food.

    Sometimes a cup of cole slaw is just a cup of cole slaw.

    On that topic, but sort of off-topic, I was irked 7-8 years ago when Chick-fil-A eliminated cole slaw on their menu, since I was subbing it in for the waffle fries in the combo meal. Hopefully, they can put that back when they add in the chicken alternative.

    • #4
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:44 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  5. Kay of MT Member

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):
    Hi, @kayofmt, we’re still sending those powerful waves!!

    I’m still getting them and such a comfort. I felt well enough today to go get a couple of toys for little Bodie. He has put himself to bed in a tent hut, and he has learned to climb a ladder to get to higher perches. He has quite a house with perches and toys. His cage is about 7″ from my desk, with a door perch so he can watch me type. Thanks to everyone for the good vibes.

    • #5
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:56 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  6. James Lileks Contributor

    I doubt they’d add it if the research didn’t say it would sell. I look forward to the ads with chickens holding up misspelled signs telling me to try it. ;)

    • #6
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:56 PM PDT
    • 20 likes
  7. Keith Rice Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Vegetarians and vegans are part of families like everyone else and restaurants are making some minor effort to put some additional items on a menu so everyone in a group of five or six has something they can order. I don’t see it as political, or an attempt to sway their image. As one example, my local Italian place here isn’t part of a national chain, and they’ve added a couple of things like eggplant parmigiana and salads; not exactly Saul Alinsky food.

    Sometimes a cup of cole slaw is just a cup of cole slaw.

    That’s exactly it, while vegans may not be close to their target market they often exert selection privilege as to where to eat when in a group. 

    • #7
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:29 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  8. Gary McVey Contributor

    Keith Rice (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Vegetarians and vegans are part of families like everyone else and restaurants are making some minor effort to put some additional items on a menu so everyone in a group of five or six has something they can order. I don’t see it as political, or an attempt to sway their image. As one example, my local Italian place here isn’t part of a national chain, and they’ve added a couple of things like eggplant parmigiana and salads; not exactly Saul Alinsky food.

    Sometimes a cup of cole slaw is just a cup of cole slaw.

    That’s exactly it, while vegans may not be close to their target market they often exert selection privilege as to where to eat when in a group.

    That puts it in power terms that may not always be 100% justified; after all, if the vegans (who are a minority within vegetarians) had steering power they’d get mom and pop to go to (at the very least) a vegetarian place. This is more likely to come up (IMHO) as a consolation prize: “We know Vito’s is not your favorite, but you liked their pesto pasta last time”. “True…and they also have a great tomato salad. Give it a try, it’s good”. 

    When I was a kid, Catholic families like ours exerted tremendous selection privilege every meatless Friday. In the northeast and the midwest, at least, we were the joy of every fish market. 

    • #8
    • May 13, 2019, at 10:31 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  9. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Back in the old days, when the Cathy family’s strategy was less pointed towards stand-alone stores and more toward placement in mall food courts, the stand-alone vegan option probably wasn’t as necessary, since there likely was another booth at the same food court that had non-meat offerings (Chick-fil-A also, in hindsight, timed their move to the stand-alone stores just right, as it coincided with the decline of mall shopping, first in favor of the big stand-alone box stores and then in favor of online. Better to have your own place that people can hook up with on doordash than locations completely tied to mall shopping that more and more people forget to frequent these days).

    • #9
    • May 14, 2019, at 1:04 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  10. Vance Richards Member

    Vegetarians can hate gays too!

    I’m kidding, I’m kidding, but I don’t see anything bad with this idea. If they feel the market is big enough, then why not? They are just adding items, not taking away any of the existing ones. As Gary points out in #1, people have families and sometimes you have to accommodate different food preferences at the same time. A few years back I had a dinner party at my house for my staff from work (after corporate decided to do away with our Christmas party). I had someone who couldn’t eat gluten, a vegetarian, a Jew and a Muslim, so we had to come up with several options based on what people could eat. My wife got creative (after saying “Are you kidding me?”) and it turned out well.

    I once went meatless for Lent. I did not go with the fake meat, but had a lot of pizza and eggplant parm. Don’t think I could do vegan, though. Cheese is a deal breaker.

    • #10
    • May 14, 2019, at 5:01 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  11. ctlaw Coolidge

    Back in my day, chicken was treated as a vegetable.

    • #11
    • May 14, 2019, at 5:02 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  12. Arahant Member

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Back in my day, chicken was treated as a vegetable.

    Preach it!

    • #12
    • May 14, 2019, at 5:27 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Back in my day, chicken was treated as a vegetable.

    Off topic…it is so hard to find anyone who knows what City Chicken is. We had it often.

    My in-laws have some…interesting food, uh, preferences. A lot of time we end up eating “asian.” I always order pork. Just to rub it in.

    • #13
    • May 14, 2019, at 5:52 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Aaron Miller Member

    It reminds me of when Arby’s started venturing from beef sandwiches. It started simple, per Gary’s good observation. Now the menu is unrecognizable. 

    But hey, they still sell beef and bread with Arby’s sauce. 

    I was shocked to hear that Chic-fil-As here often have playgrounds for kids. How do they fit a playground into that shoebox?

    • #14
    • May 14, 2019, at 5:56 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Arahant Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Back in my day, chicken was treated as a vegetable.

    Off topic…it is so hard to find anyone who knows what City Chicken is. We had it often.

    My in-laws have some…interesting food, uh, preferences. A lot of time we end up eating “asian.” I always order pork. Just to rub it in.

    I know several places here in Detroit area you could get City Chicken.

    • #15
    • May 14, 2019, at 6:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I know several places here in Detroit area you could get City Chicken.

    Because, Detroit.

    • #16
    • May 14, 2019, at 6:20 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. danok1 Inactive

    I’d say that besides chicken, a second core competency is customer service. I’ve never had bad service at CFA (I know, sample of one, etc.). Yes, mistakes are made, but they are corrected quickly without the sullen attitude one experiences at other chains.

    I suppose it depends on how this would be rolled out. An attempt to “virtue signal” would likely end in derision and damage to CFA’s reputation. Presenting it as: “Hey, we realized that vegetarians are missing out on the CFA experience. Come try our new options; you’re family here” (or something like that’ I’m no copywriter, as you can tell.) would probably be fine with CFA’s current customers.

    • #17
    • May 14, 2019, at 6:23 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  18. Front Seat Cat Member

    I imagine they’ll find and make the best vegan alternative and add even more customers. My husband eats lunch here all the time because its a convenient mid-point – they offer a side called superfood – its broccoli, kale, nuts and cranberries with a lemon dressing and so delicious, he eats it all the time. He’s not a health food nut and likes meat and fries and the rest of it, but I can tell you he would try the veggie alternative – we’re finding as we get older, eating healthy is a good idea.

    • #18
    • May 14, 2019, at 6:32 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49 Post author

    I always wondered why vegetarians and vegans have to have fake meat in the first place. Why can’t they be proud of their lifestyle choice and simply eat their vegetables as vegetables? Most restaurants strive to have appealing vegetarian choices on their menus to attract that tiny segment of society anyway.

    • #19
    • May 14, 2019, at 6:47 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  20. Arahant Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    I always wondered why vegetarians and vegans have to have fake meat in the first place. Why can’t they be proud of their lifestyle choice and simply eat their vegetables as vegetables?

    I was a vegetarian for nineteen years, and I have no idea why. I certainly never had a hankering for tofurkey or tofu hot dogs. I wasn’t a vegan. I ate plenty of cheese and dairy products. Now, there are some delicious forms of vegetable protein out there, but they aren’t necessarily formed into fake meat.

    • #20
    • May 14, 2019, at 6:52 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  21. Jon1979 Lincoln

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I always wondered why vegetarians and vegans have to have fake meat in the first place. Why can’t they be proud of their lifestyle choice and simply eat their vegetables as vegetables? Most restaurants strive to have appealing vegetarian choices on their menus to attract that tiny segment of society anyway.

    Seems to be a mix of both accommodation on the part of the product marketer, in trying to have everyone fit in by eating something that at least on the surface looks similar, and a desire on the part of the buyers to have some approximation to what they’re self-denying themselves from having.

    Omnivoreism for non-omnivores, which I suppose can be rationalized on the idea that you can like the taste of meat but in some way be morally offended by the way that taste came about (which is fine, as long as you don’t start hectoring everyone else about their eating habits, and why in the future the only way people should get some semblance of the taste of meat is via tofuburgers).

    • #21
    • May 14, 2019, at 7:08 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49 Post author

    My response to vegetarians and vegans is: God made you an omnivore for a reason, and there are nutrients that are only found in animal products (Vitamin B12). If you restrict your diet to plant-based sources alone, you have moved yourself down the food chain, and you might become prey.

    • #22
    • May 14, 2019, at 7:24 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  23. Arahant Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    My response to vegetarians and vegans is: God made you an omnivore for a reason, and there are nutrients that are only found in animal products (Vitamin B12). If you restrict your diet to plant-based sources alone, you have moved yourself down the food chain, and you might become prey.

    Mmm, long pig!

    • #23
    • May 14, 2019, at 7:28 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49 Post author

    And then, there’s this article this morning, about what the Texas legislature is considering. It is a law nicknamed the “Save Chick-Fil-A Act”.

    The reason for the law was a couple of airports banning the company based on its opposition to homosexual “marriage”.

    • #24
    • May 14, 2019, at 7:44 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  25. Full Size Tabby Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Vegetarians and vegans are part of families like everyone else and restaurants are making some minor effort to put some additional items on a menu so everyone in a group of five or six has something they can order. I don’t see it as political, or an attempt to sway their image. As one example, my local Italian place here isn’t part of a national chain, and they’ve added a couple of things like eggplant parmigiana and salads; not exactly Saul Alinsky food.

    Sometimes a cup of cole slaw is just a cup of cole slaw.

    Why steak houses and seafood restaurants have chicken dishes.

    A vegetarian former coworker said several of the bar-be-que restaurants in my then-city had better vegetarian dishes than many vegetarian restaurants.

    • #25
    • May 14, 2019, at 8:08 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  26. Arahant Member

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    A vegetarian former coworker said several of the bar-be-que restaurants in my then-city had better vegetarian dishes than many vegetarian restaurants.

    Probably. Barbecue restaurants know how to cook.

    • #26
    • May 14, 2019, at 8:13 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Full Size Tabby Member

    At the risk of getting business school geeky, I’m not sure chicken really is Chick-fil-A’s “core competency.”

    If chickens became extinct tomorrow, the company would find a way to serve some other food product with the same high level of customer service, speed, cleanliness, and consistency, with which they serve chicken today, and that most of us would still flock there (pun unintentional). So, to me their core competency seems to be their service (delivery), not the food itself.

    The simplicity of their menu is a key factor in their ability to deliver the experience we expect, so I see the primary risk of adding vegan (or vegetarian) food items to be the complication it adds to the menu at the point of delivery. McDonald’s has had to deal multiple times with issues associated with increasingly complicated menus.

    Another key factor in Chick-fil-A’s ability to deliver the experience we expect is their selection, training, and motivation of employees. 

    • #27
    • May 14, 2019, at 8:33 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  28. Aaron Miller Member

    I started hunting tofu when the beans disappeared. Something must be eating them.

    • #28
    • May 14, 2019, at 8:48 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  29. namlliT noD Member

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    At the risk of getting business school geeky, I’m not sure chicken really is Chick-fil-A’s “core competency.”

    If chickens became extinct tomorrow, the company would find a way to serve some other food product with the same high level of customer service, speed, cleanliness, and consistency, with which they serve chicken today, and that most of us would still flock there (pun unintentional). So, to me their core competency seems to be their service (delivery), not the food itself.

    Yes, exactly.

    And to that end… I just saw this go by on LinkedIn:

    https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6529490568182104064

    Quote:

    I just passed through the Chick fil A Albany, NY airport location. I placed my order and only after I attempted to pay did I learn that their IT system was down. The employee said, “It’s on us tonight as we work through an internal system issue. Have a nice flight.” Not sure how many travelers got a free meal tonight but their willingness to handle the problem without any customer inconvenience was impressive to me

    • #29
    • May 14, 2019, at 9:58 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  30. Gary McVey Contributor

    I’ve known bunches of vegetarians over the years. I’ve never met one who wanted their meals to look like meat. Why would they? Who would they be trying to fool?

    I’m puzzled why this would be a conservative issue at all. Let ’em choose. 

    • #30
    • May 14, 2019, at 10:47 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
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