Why Did the Chick-fil-A Cross the Road Back to the US?: Chick-fil-A leaves the UK

December 6, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

In October, Reading became the home of the UK’s first Chick-fil-A branch. However, after only 8 days of trading, their landlord announced it would not be extending the company’s 6-month lease.

What does this mean?

The popular yet controversial US fast food chain opened its doors for the first time on this side of the pond on October 10th 2019 in the Oracle shopping centre in Reading. This sparked a less than favourable response from people in the UK who are aware of the restaurants chequered past on LGBT+ rights. Only 8 days later, Oracle announced they would not be extending Chick-fil-A’s lease in the shopping centre. 

The shopping centre attributed the decision to commercial pressures, stating that they “decided on this occasion that the right thing to do is to only allow Chick-fil-A to trade with us for the initial six-month pilot period and not to extend the lease any further”.

What's the big picture effect?

Daniel Cathy, the Chief Executive of the restaurant chain publicly made donations to anti LGBT+ organisations including using profits to fund Exodus, a well-known gay and transgender conversion therapy company. In a time where society is finally heading towards greater acceptance of the LGBT+ community, Daniel Cathy also publicly opposed same-sex marriage in the US in 2012.

The opening of this chain in Reading led to protests by Reading Pride, as well as other LGBT+ rights groups across the UK. Reading Pride had this to say: “the chain’s ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the UK as we are a progressive country that has legalised same-sex marriage for some years and continues to strive towards equality”.

This reaction from the UK public highlights some stark differences between the UK and US despite relations becoming closer. This seems to suggest that any firms which face a controversial history and do not work to distance themselves from it will struggle to establish themselves in the UK. This could pose some post-Brexit problems if we are to depend on future relations with the US to overcome any shortfall in trade arising from our EU exit. If companies increasingly struggle to find a home in the UK, this will serve as a major deterrent and may perhaps make the government regret its Brexit plans.

Despite the seemingly obvious failure of this business exercise, Chick-fil-A remain positive and said in a statement they were “very pleased” with the UK customer response. This appears to be an ignorant and naïve response form the chain and if they do not make public apologies and sever changes to their company ethos, they will not do well in the UK.

Report written by Mohammad Hammoud

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