Chick-fil-A, one of America’s most successful fast food brands, plans to take its fried-chicken sandwiches abroad, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Andrew Cathy, CEO of the chain since September 2021, told the publication that it’s time for the chain “to continue to innovate and try and test how we will do in international markets so that we can learn.”
He said the chain plans to invest $1 billion to open restaurants in Europe and Asia by 2026.
The move abroad would mark a significant growth change for the Atlanta-based chicken chain, which has more than 2,700 franchised restaurants in 47 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and Canada. By going abroad, Chick-fil-A will compete with US-based rivals such as KFC and McDonald’s, which have been in Asia for years. KFC alone has nearly 24,000 international locations.
Cathy, the family-owned chain’s CEO, told the Journal that growth abroad is necessary as the company charts its future. The company would “stick” to its current franchising model, which limits most franchisees from owning more than one restaurant.
Chick-fil-A did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Owning a Chick-fil-A franchise is historically an attractive opportunity for any potential franchisee.
Chick-fil-A restaurants generate higher revenue per location than any other US chain. Most locations average about $8.1 million in sales per year, according to the chain’s 2022 Franchise Disclosure Document. That’s more than double the average yearly sales of a McDonald’s.
In the US, Chick-fil-A is the third largest restaurant chain, in terms of sales, according to market research firm Technomic. Only McDonald’s and Starbucks generate more revenue than Chick-fil-A, which reported sales of $16.7 billion in 2021.
It’s unclear how many restaurants the chain would build abroad, but it is targeting five international markets by 2030, Cathy told the Journal.
This isn’t the first time Chick-fil-A has hinted at international expansion. Before stepping down as CEO, Andrew Cathy’s father, Dan, said he was excited about exporting the brand to Asia, Europe, and South America.
The company has previously tried expanding its famous pressure-cooked chicken to new markets outside North America but has run into trouble.
In 2020, the chain closed its UK locations amid protests over its history of donating to anti-LGBTQ political causes. Chick-fil-A no longer contributes to political causes. The Journal said Chick-fil-A spent five years in South Africa from 1996 to 2001. The chain exited the market because it couldn’t build brand awareness.
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