Chick-fil-A's next crack at becoming a global brand will start in early 2025 when it re-enters the U.K.
The plan is to open five restaurants in the first two years and invest more than $100 million over the next decade. The chicken giant will implement an owner-operator model in which nearly 80 percent will oversee one unit at an initial investment of $10,000. Each store will employ 80–120 workers.
"We are excited our restaurants will bring new jobs and opportunities throughout the UK. Serving communities is at the heart of everything we do at Chick-fil-A, and our unique local owner-operator model provides one of a kind access to entrepreneurial opportunities,” chief international officer Anita Costello said in a statement. “We look forward to sharing our authentic Chick-fil-A experience: providing fresh food prepared with high-quality ingredients, served with our signature hospitality.”
With more than 2,800 restaurants in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, Chick-fil-A is the 18th-largest quick-service brand in America in terms of store count, according to the QSR 50. However, when looking at systemwide sales, it's the third-largest behind McDonald's and Starbucks. The brand punches way above its footprint due to a surging AUV. Average annual sales per store were $8.676 million for freestanding drive-thrus in 2022, up from $8.142 million and $7.096 million in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
Chick-fil-A's Canadian unit count reached the double digits this summer. The brand debuted in Puerto Rico in 2022 and now has five restaurants on the island. In March, CEO Andrew Cathy—who took over for his father, Dan T. Cathy, in 2021—told The Wall Street Journal Chick-fil-A wanted to open restaurants in Europe and Asia by 2025. The company plans locations in five international markets by 2030, driven by a $1 billion injection.
This, however, isn't Chick-fil-A's first international growth push. According to The Journal, the chain left South Africa in 2001 after not building enough awareness over a five-year stretch. It also opened a mall-based location in the U.K. in 2019, but the store faced tension from local gay-rights advocates. It closed several months later, the report said. Chick-fil-A today doesn’t contribute to political causes.
Executives informed The Journal that they anticipate Chick-fil-A's international launches to mirror its U.S. performance. Its focus will be on Asian and European nations with robust economies, high population densities, and a strong chicken market. In the interview, Cathy mentioned that Chick-fil-A is in the process of figuring out how to establish its supply chain overseas. The company plans to utilize both local and current U.S. suppliers. The latest news release around the U.K. said all chicken will be sourced from the U.K. and Ireland.
The international fast-food segment is competitive, particularly in China. Starbucks, McDonald's, and KFC are all known for their foothold in the country. Other brands like Popeyes are hoping to gain more traction in the coming years.
But for Chick-fil-A, it's one step at a time.
“From our earliest days, we’ve worked to positively influence the places we call home and this will be the same for our stores in the UK," Joanna Symonds, head of U.K. operations, said in a statement. "We encourage our operators to partner with organizations [that] support and positively impact their local communities, delivering great food and wider benefits to those around them.”