Chick-fil-A is playing a high-stakes game of chicken that has nothing to do with its sandwiches.
President Dan Cathy’s public stance on gay marriage kicked off a firestorm that could hurt its sales and growth prospects, although restaurant analysts say support from the religious right in core markets could make the overall business impact a wash. But to sustain this uneasy equilibrium, the company has to avoid saying or doing anything to further inflame two opposing groups of consumers. The Southern fast-food chain is fending off accusations of hostility to the LGBT community following Cathy’s comments in support of traditional marriage and the “biblical definition” of families.
A local NBC affiliate reportedthat the company’s traditional grand-opening campout for fans in Laguna Hills, Calif., was scrapped in anticipation of a protest, and numerous groups are promoting a same-sex “kiss-in” planned for next week at Chick-fil-A locations around the country.
Government officials in Boston and Chicago said the company could take its business elsewhere. Philadelphia Councilman James F. Kenney told Cathy in a letter, "So, please take a hike and take your intolerance with you." AndMuppet creator Jim Henson’s company said it wouldn’t partner with the company on toys for kids’ meals in the future.
Then came the backlash to the backlash: A second elected official in Chicago challenged the push to keep the company from opening a new restaurant there, Republican politicians Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum voiced their support for the company, and supporters rallied around the idea of a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”