Inside a Chick-Fil-A Restaurant As Consumer Spending & GDP Rose in 4th Quarter
Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The days when fried chicken was synonymous with a certain white-haired southern gentleman are over, at least in the U.S. A new champion has claimed KFC's long-held chicken crown: Chick-fil-A.

The change atop the leaderboard appears undisputed: Yum Brands (YUM), which owns KFC and has for years prided itself as "the leader in the U.S. chicken [quick-service restaurant] segment," removed that very phrase from the company's most recent annual report.


Anyone in the northern half of the U.S. is likely scratching her head and wondering why she hasn't seen Chick-fil-A outlets opening in the neighborhood. Last year Chick-fil-A only had about 1,775 U.S. stores to KFC's 4,491, and most are in the South. Yet in dollar terms the Colonel is coming up short even with that much larger footprint: Chick-fil-A's 2013 sales passed $5 billion, while all of KFC's U.S. restaurants rang up about $4.22 billion, according to Technomic. And that's with zero dollars coming in to Chick-fil-A on Sundays, when every restaurant is closed.

What Chick-fil-A lacks in store count, it makes up for in traffic. Each restaurant made about $3.2 million in 2013, more than three times as much as the average KFC at $938,000. Average sales at KFC restaurants have remained largely unchanged over the past decade, while they have climbed steadily at Chick-fil-A. Same-store sales climbed by more than 3.6 percent at Chick-fil-A last year; KFC's fell by 2 percent.

KFC hit its U.S. peak by store count around 2004, when it had more than 5,500 restaurants-over four times the number of Chick-fil-A locations-and claimed 46 percent of the fast-food chicken market. But over the past decade the gap between the two narrowed as KFC closed stores and Chick-fil-A added more. Now, KFC's storefront advantage is just 2.5 times more than its rival, and Chick-fil-A plans to chip away with more than 100 new locations opening this year. (A representative for KFC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Darren Tristano, an executive vice president at consultancy Technomic, called Chick-fil-A one of the most successful fast-food chains. He cited the sizable breakfast business, an average check slightly higher than competitors', and a menu that differentiates it from the big burger chains.

And fast-food chicken fans outside the South may not be puzzled by Chick-fil-A's hegemony for long. A spokesman mentioned plans for locations in the "northern, Midwest, and western states," where the company is now focusing its growth plans.

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this is the way a boycott of a business because of their religious convictions should work out.

April 01 2014 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only thing I don't like about Chick-Fil-a is that they are closed on Sunday, but I appreciate their staying true to their values. Agree or disagree Chick-Fil-a is a wonderful example that you can stand on your beliefs and succeed even when your beliefs are unpopular with a large segment of society. When I first started eating at their restaurants 30 years ago I didn't notice a difference in their service. I guess overall all service people were more polite and professional back then. Today it is a noticeable and pleasant difference. A trip to Chick-Fil-a with a drive through line going around the building is quicker and more pleasant than other fast food businesses with a shorter line. I stopped going to my local KFC several years ago when not only couldn't I understand what the person taking my order was saying, but she was rude and got my order wrong. Love Chick-Fil-A! Best breakfast biscuits and best salads!

March 30 2014 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The customer service and product has a lot to do with it. At Chick-Fil-A, they hold their customer service to a very high standard, and they only hire people that can articulate when they speak. At KFC, you hear "what can I get you, dogg?". Chick-Fil-A is faster service, KFC takes forever. Chick-Fil-A has a better product, and their menu rarely changes. KFC, you go in one week and find something that is actually edible, and it's off the menu the next week....replaced by something cheaper and un-edible.

KFC... If you want to be the best, you have to offer the best. Your customer service sucks, your product sucks, and your menu sucks. Hire people that don't speak ebonics fluently, find better chicken product, and come up with a menu and stick with it. But, this won't happen...and you're only going to slip further down the ranks behind Chick-Fil-A.

March 29 2014 at 10:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This greasy deep fried patty of mashed chicken parts and fillers is competition for KFC? Are the beak and claws considered white meat or dark?

March 29 2014 at 9:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dsrtjoe's comment

Obviously a biased question. Mad because they have morals? Would it be racist if I asked a commiecrat if their beak and claws were white or dark?

March 30 2014 at 4:15 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I am not a minister's daughter, but I am descended from Quakers who knew what to do when offended by things with which they did not approve. When I heard executives' postions on people of different persuasions I stopped stopping. I also have told those who might agree with me why I don't spend my money threre.

March 29 2014 at 7:41 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mkbir's comment

Never eat at chic fil a - they decide who is good enough to eat their slop and who isn't.

March 30 2014 at 7:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A few decades ago I had listed a home through my Real Estate office. The owner managed the first Chick-fil-A in my area. I went by to take him some papers to sign and he bought my lunch. I was totally HOOKED! I'm a Ministers daughter, I KNOW what real chicken IS, and there's NO better chicken breast sandwich in the world there! Our picnics, family gatherings and shopping trips start or ends with Chick-fil-A! It's carved from REAL chicken breasts NOT "body parts" pressed into the shape of one! When the snafu about them happened and Governor Huckabee announced it, a new "revival" started! Patriotic and decent American citizens are starting to realize in a huge way, how really valuable and fleeting our "Constitutional Rights" are! And how complacency does as much harm as the WRONG action!
What a heart-warming, inspirational, motivational and up-lifting SITE to see so many wonderful people supporting them and vice versus! Chick-fil-A not only know how to serve YUMMY CHICKEN, they also know how to serve up a mean "Dish of CROW" to the radical activists! Complete with feathers and talons!

March 29 2014 at 5:39 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

kfc has very good chicken but the price is not worth it

March 29 2014 at 5:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Great restaurant, good food, good employees. Constreversial? NO!!!! Who ever put that headline on this article is an idiot. Total ignorance!

March 29 2014 at 5:16 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to falcon38a's comment

Sounds like you're ignorant of the issue behind the controversy. It's a fried food joint. What's so great about something that leads to obesity and poor health that shortens your life?

March 29 2014 at 5:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim and Sandy

Good food, polite employees (unlike those at Mac's who are rude, don't want to work, don't know the meaning of "no onion", and think they should be making $15/hr even though they haven't finished high school), good atmosphere, and clean facilities. The fact this franchise chooses to honor the Lord's day and closes on Sunday is irrelevant. Other fast food restaurants could learn much from Chic Fil A on how to run a successful business. Start by "cleaning house" and hiring customer service oriented employees.

March 29 2014 at 5:09 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim and Sandy's comment

Maybe you spend your life driving around to find places to eat based on religious beliefs but most normal people simply look for a good place to eat at good prices without any drama. I like places opened on Sunday and give them my business.

Just because you want more money to pay your bills and have a better life when you're working for slave wages doesn't make you unwilling to work either! Jesus cared about the poor you obviously only care about yourself!

March 29 2014 at 5:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to boston1936's comment

Uh, morality in a family Restaurant is bonus. The food is consistently delicious. You attack a person's worship ethics. They observe the Sabbath as a rest day, poopy.

March 30 2014 at 4:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

Maybe KFC should be principaled enough to speak out about LGBT and show thier their colors. Seems to work for the Chick.

March 29 2014 at 5:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply