Chick-fil-A to return to UK in 2025 with first permanent location

Dive Brief:

  • Chick-fil-A will open its first restaurant in the U.K. in early 2025, marking its first permanent store outside of North America, the company said in a press release Thursday. 
  • The Atlanta-based chain, which plans to invest more than $100 million in the next 10 years in the U.K., aims to have the five restaurants open within two years with local owner/operators, and then expand across the country.
  • This move is part of the company’s strategy to open restaurants in new European and Asian markets by 2026 and five international locations by 2030.

Dive Insight:

Chick-fil-A first attempted to open a location in Reading, United Kingdom, in 2019 but closed after six months. The shopping mall that owned the space said it wouldn’t let the chain stay beyond its initial trial period following backlash from Reading Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy group, that protested the company’s stance against same-sex marriage.

This time around the fast food chain, which has 2,800 units across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, has a more solid, long-term plan for international growth. Chick-fil-A said it will introduce several of its popular items in the U.K, such as its Original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich, freshly made salads and hand-breaded nuggets. The company plans to source chicken from the U.K. and Ireland and use 100% free-range eggs. 

Chick-fil-A has a small footprint outside of the contiguous U.S., with only seven locations open in Canada and three in Puerto Rico as of the end of 2022, per its 2023 Franchise Disclosure Document. It said it continues to look for more opportunities for franchised units in these two markets. Total systemwide sales last year for its franchised and company-owned units were $18.8 billion, up 12.8% from about $16.7 billion in 2021.

Several other chains have set their sights on the U.K. Wendy’s opened its first unit there in 2021, quickly growing to 29 by the end of 2022. It has plans to have 45 units in the country by the end of this year. Popeyes opened its first U.K. location in 2021 as well. It had over two dozen locations as of August, when it secured about $63 million from TDR Capital to help with expansion in the region.

Source: RestaurantDive.com

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