Why closing on Sundays helps Chick-fil-A

The chain’s location in Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be closed during the Super Bowl. Here’s why that’s a good decision, says RB’s The Bottom Line.
Photograph: Shutterstock


Chick-fil-A has a location at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which will host the Super Bowl in less than two weeks.

And yet, just like every other Sunday, that Chick-fil-A will be closed, theoretically shutting the chain off from the supply of hungry fans of the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.

That’s a good move.

CFA has had a hard-and-fast, closed-Sundays rule since the company’s founding in 1946. It makes periodic exceptions during disasters or other situations, but for the most part you cannot get one of their chicken sandwiches on the second day of the weekend.

There’s a theoretical opportunity cost behind this decision, one made somewhat obvious when the company opened inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

After all, maintaining the closed-Sunday rule misses the opportunity to serve hungry football fans—never mind that, in the rosiest of scenarios, the Falcons would play 12 games at the stadium, assuming they played all their regular season and preseason games on Sundays and then got home-field advantage during the playoffs.

The Chick-fil-A is open for about 100 events a year at the venue, the company noted just more than a year ago in explaining its presence inside an NFL stadium.

CFA has always had this stance, even as its expansion has taken it into more places that are packed on Sundays.

For instance, the chain has long closed itself to Sunday mall visitors. And it has kept closed in airports, potentially missing out on travelers who would presumably love themselves a chicken sandwich before their flight.

Why would they change this policy when it’s worked so well for the chain for so long?

As we’ve said, Chick-fil-A is the strongest-performing large chain at the moment, poised to become the third-largest chain in the U.S. in the next year or two.

According to Technomic Ignite data, its five-year compound annual growth rate easily outdistances any of the other 10 largest chains in the U.S., and by a good distance.

Its unit volumes, meanwhile, exceed $4 million. No other large, limited-service restaurant chain boasts those volumes.

Chick-fil-A could open on Sundays starting this weekend, and I don’t think it would do much for those volumes, and, over time, would be negative.

First, it’s who Chick-fil-A is.

It’s respectable for a company to maintain a policy like this even though it misses out on so many customers. The company is choosing to give franchisees and employees a day off in an era in which retailers continue to stay open late at night and on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There’s also a benefit for the company’s franchisees, who can recruit better workers and managers and keep them simply because they get a day off every week by staying at Chick-fil-A. Recruiters have told me they have a tough time recruiting CFA managers to other chains for that simple reason. At a time when labor is the single biggest challenge in the restaurant space, that’s a key advantage.

That likely improves operations and service and helps keep sales growth. Bad service in an era of heavy competition causes customers to go to other concepts.

But there’s also the law of supply and demand. Restricting the availability of Chick-fil-A to six days gives the perception of limited supply.

For years, McDonald’s limited breakfast to the morning, despite intense demand for the availability of those products all day.

I’d been an advocate for all-day breakfast, which the company introduced on a limited basis to much fanfare in 2015—which helped generate sales growth the next year. McDonald’s expanded the menu to most of its breakfast items a year later, and 2017 was a strong year.

But breakfast traffic took a hit last year, and it’s difficult to see how the expanded availability of those breakfast items didn’t hurt the daypart. The Egg McMuffin is no longer just a morning thing. You can get it anytime.

While Chick-fil-A could open on Sundays, it wouldn’t necessarily help improve those unit volumes, and then the company would lose the labor advantage and the perception of corporate integrity.

So no, Chick-fil-A should not open on a Sunday. Not even for the Super Bowl.

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