Financing

Chick-fil-A had another strong year in 2022

The chicken sandwich chain’s domestic system sales increased another 13% last year. But check out how much a stand-alone restaurant makes now.
Chick-fil-A sales
Chick-fil-A's U.S. sales grew 13% last year, according to the company's franchise disclosure document. / Photograph: Shutterstock.

Chick-fil-A finished 2022 the way you’ve come to expect over the past couple of decades: With remarkably strong sales.

The Atlanta-based chicken sandwich chain generated $18.8 billion in U.S. system sales last year, according to the company’s newly filed franchise disclosure document (FDD), up nearly 13% over 2021. That likely cements its spot behind McDonald’s and Starbucks as the nation’s third-largest restaurant chain.

Perhaps the most notable number, however, is just how much money a typical Chick-fil-A generates. Standalone locations outside of malls, which now number more than 1,900 locations, generated median sales last year of $8.6 million per unit, up nearly 8% from the year before, according to the FDD.

Mall locations, by contrast, generate just $2.7 million per location. Chick-fil-A, which emerged as a mall concept in the Southeast in the 1970s and 1980s, operates fewer than 200 mall locations in the U.S. these days.

Chick-fil-A has taken a deliberate expansion approach, opting for fewer, carefully placed locations, often with double drive-thru lanes, rather than more restaurants closer together. That approach, coupled with the company’s continued popularity, has equated to the industry’s strongest unit volumes.

For instance, Chick-fil-A last year developed just 100 new locations, finishing 2022 with 2,800 U.S. restaurants. That’s unit growth of just less than 4%. Its unit count is less than half that of other fast-food chains like Taco Bell, Burger King or Wendy’s, each of which generates fewer sales overall.

Instead, the company has opted to ensure that its existing locations generate a lot of sales, which earns better incomes for its operators. A typical Chick-fil-A franchised location, including the mall units, generates about $8 million. That’s over twice that of a typical McDonald’s restaurant, four times that of Wendy’s and five times that of Burger King.

The company’s standalone unit volumes are better even than the hot dog and Italian beef chain Portillo’s, which likewise is known for its high-volume locations. They are also on par with high-volume, polished-casual restaurants and high-end steak concepts.

The highest-volume stand-alone location last year generated nearly $17 million. The lowest-volume restaurant, meanwhile, was $2.2 million. The lowest-volume Chick-fil-A, in other words, would have been an above-average volume Wendy’s restaurant.

All this has contributed to some remarkable growth for the chain. Since 2017, Chick-fil-A has added $10 billion in U.S. system sales, according to the FDD and data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. To put that another way, Chick-fil-A has added the equivalent of Burger King to its domestic sales base.

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