Chick-fil-A recently announced that it would stop donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations The Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) – with Chick-fil-A President Tim Tassopoulos noting that as the company attempts to expand into new markets, the company needs to “be clear about our message“. Considering that the company is a powerhouse for chicken in the United States – and has stood by its donation decisions for years until now – what exactly has caused this change of heart? Two things: market saturation and protests.
The tipping point
2019 has been a rough year for Chick-fil-A. Earlier this year the company was rejected from multiple U.S. airports over the company’s stances on LGBTQ issues. However, what probably stung the most was the company’s dismal outing in the United Kingdom. It was the company’s first real foray into the wider international market since 2001. However, just a week into the company’s six-month building lease, their landlord made it clear they would not be renewing the chain’s contract due to LGBTQ protests – unceremoniously booting the company from the country.
While Chick-fil-A is certainly a powerhouse stateside, it’s not ubiquitous. These two failures highlight a very serious issue for Chick-fil-A: It’s reaching its limit – due entirely to its anti-LGBTQ baggage. While the company has thrived in more conservative areas, they’ve had difficulty gaining traction in more progressive areas of the country. San Francisco, for instance, has rebuffed Chick-fil-A for years. Despite being a giant untapped market for Chick-fil-A, the company still has no locations in San Francisco. Meanwhile, one of Chick-fil-A’s biggest competitors, Popeyes, has established multiple locations.
Which cuts straight to the heart of things: Chick-fil-A has essentially been sending potential customers straight to their competition – and without new customers in new markets, the company has essentially hit its peak and can no longer grow. Something had to change.
Tassapoulos’ comments make it clear the company is aiming for a more LGBTQ-friendly look. And to the company’s credit, they’ve put their money where their mouth is. Not only will the company no longer donate to The Salvation Army or FCA, but they will no longer donate to WinShape or LifeShape as well – charitable organizations set up by Chick-fil-A’s founding family. However, that said, the founding family still makes money from Chick-fil-A and will certainly fund their own charitable organizations – which have their own problematic relationships with the LGBTQ community.
So while Chick-fil-A has definitely made strides in the right direction, it will still come up short for some people. Additionally, the company has left the door open that it may fund anti-LGBTQ organizations in the future.
All this is to say that protests and boycotts played a central role in Chick-fil-A’s decision to stop funding certain organizations, and as the company continues its attempts to expand, it will likely need to make even bigger changes and commitments – at least, if people keep the pressure on. These tools have long been the drivers for change throughout history. Chick-fil-A’s about-face after years of nothing is a reminder that we should all be cognizant of where we put our money as consumers and what it ultimately funds – and that, together, we all have the power to bring about change.