Food & Drink

Meet the LGBT+ rights campaigners protesting against Chick-fil-A in the UK

By Florence Leslie
January 28 2020, 17.58

LGBT+ rights campaigners told American chicken chain Chick-fil-A’s flagship Reading restaurant to ‘cluck off’ in protests against franchise.

The franchise faced protests in October after trading for just eight days due to the CEO’s comments on same-sex marriage in 2012.

Chick-fil-A then opened in the Scottish Highlands hotel Macdonald Aviemore Resort before closing in just three months.

A Chick-fil-A spokeswoman told The Herald newspaper: “The Chick-fil-A at Macdonald Aviemore Resort officially closed its doors on January 18, 2020 in line with our plan for a temporary pilot licensed location.

“These insights will help us immensely as we look to having a permanent location in the UK in the future.”

A spokesperson for Chick-fil-A, Inc said: The Chick-fil-A at Macdonald Aviemore Resort officially closed its doors on January 18, 2020 in line with our plan for a temporary pilot licensed location.

“It has been our pleasure to serve guests at this pilot restaurant for the past several months, and we are grateful to Macdonald Hotels for allowing us the opportunity to learn from each and every customer.

“These insights will help us immensely as we look to having a permanent location in the UK in the future.

“These insights will help us immensely as we look to having a permanent location in the UK in the future.”

LGBT+ news organisation PinkNews reports a now deleted statement on Macdonald Aviemore Resort’s website said Chick-fil-A proved ‘very popular’ with guests and did not previously describe the restaurant as a pop-up location.

The closure comes after Scottish LGBT rights protestors launched a 1,258 strong petition to boycott the branch.

Speaking to PinkNews, petition creator and LGBTI Scotland manager Scott Cuthbertson said: “Chick-fil-A is a company with a terrible record of supporting anti-LGBT+ causes. 

“I want to thank everyone who signed the petition to tell Chick-fil-A to cluck off.”

Chick-fil-A has an international reputation for unappetising views as much as its fried chicken sandwiches. 

CEO Dan Cathy, who’s father founded the company, told Baptist Press in 2012 Chick-fil-A was ‘guilty as charged’ when asked if he opposed same-sex marriage.

Mr Cathy added: “We are very much supportive of the family —the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Mr Cathy later reflected he regretted airing his opinions publicly but stood by his views underpinned by his Christian faith. 

According to US news website ThinkProgress’ analysis of Chick-fil-A’s tax filings, the company donated nearly two million dollars to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Paul Anderson Youth Home and the Salvation Army in 2015.

Campaigners say these organisations all have a reputations for opposing LGBT+ rights.

In a statement, a Salvation Army spokesperson said: “The Salvation Army in the UK with the Republic of Ireland has not received any money from Chick-fil-A.

“The Salvation Army in the United Kingdom is made up of thousands of people who worship, work, volunteer, donate and serve together every week. This includes many who support or are LGBT+ people. 

“We welcome and serve people regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Scottish Senior Anglican priest Kelvin Holdsworth accused the Salvation Army of ‘lying’ over supporting LGBT rights in October, tweeting: “They are lying.

“You can’t be a member of the Salvation Army and wear their uniform or be an officer (like being ordained) if you are gay and married or in a partnership.”

Chick-fil-A said in a November 2019 statement its charitable giving arm would introduce a ‘more focused giving approach’ to provide ‘additional clarity’ about the causes it supports and ceased donating to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

According to 2019 data analysis from Nation’s Restaurant News, despite closing on Sundays, Chick-fil-A is now the third largest fast-food restaurant in America – and has no plans to halt its mission for a permanent UK home.

Graph: Chick-fil-A third largest restaurant chain in America
Data from Nation’s Restaurant News

Under Dan Cathy’s leadership, Chick-fil-A could soon reign at top of the food chain despite his 2012 comments.

The average Chick-fil-A outlet made $4.6 million annual sales in 2018 while the golden arches, while still making more sales overall, trailed sluggishly in the battle of fast-food restaurants to increase their customer base, making $2.8 million average sales per location.

Kalinowski Equity Research founder Mark Kalinowski told Business Insider: “Chick-fil-A are severely under-penetrated.

“Once you start looking at all these other big metropolitan areas in all these states, there’s room for growth for, not just years and years to come, but potentially decades to come.”

But one campaigner is determined to prevent Chick-fil-A from coming home to roost in the UK.

Reading Pride CEO Martin Cooper said: “I received messages via our Facebook page about Chick-fil-A setting up shop and explaining dissatisfaction from the community. 

“There was no promotion beforehand, it just suddenly appeared.

“We realised as Reading Pride we needed to act.”

Reading Pride held their ‘Get the Chick Out’ demonstration of 120 people outside Chick-fil-A’s first UK location at the Reading Oracle shopping centre. 

Speaking at the rally, a local labour councillor said: “I come from America. I grew up in Texas and I know a lot about Chick-fil-A. I fought radical religious establishments in the states and I do not want to see it over here, where I now call home.

“Reading deserves better, Reading is better.”

Mr Cooper added: “I have no issue with religious beliefs, I have no issue with people following religion.

“Everybody needs belief and everybody needs faith — it’s the actions taken by the company through their charitable foundation putting money towards questionable charities that I take issue with.”

An Oracle shopping centre statement said: “We always look to introduce new concepts for our customers, however, we have decided on this occasion that the right thing to do is to only allow Chick-Fil-A to trade with us for the initial six-month pilot period, and not to extend the lease any further.”

Reading Pride said the reason Chick-fil-A would stay for the six month pilot period is to allow for employee re-settlement and they felt this was a reasonable request.

Although Mr Cooper may not be able to tackle Chick-fil-A’s rapid expansion in America, his campaign made international headlines and was reported in Australian national news outlets, the New York Times, CNN and Fox News.

He said although Reading Pride experienced some negative commentary on its Facebook page which has now been removed, the reaction has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’, even receiving messages from people in America asking to donate to the local group.

In a poll, while 87% of people said they would boycott Chick-fil-A if it opened in their town, 13% may find the chicken sandwich too delicious to resist, or perhaps hard to reconcile the cognitive dissonance of their local shopping mall with a far away American CEO’s views. 

Mr Cooper said: “If I was to be told people would choose Chick-fil-A over human rights, human dignity and mental health then I’d ask them to question their moral stance and beliefs.

“Choosing this product for the flavour over someone else’s right to exist how they wish to exist, I think you need to look deep inside yourself.”

Macdonald Aviemore Resort were approached for comment but did not respond.

Find out more information about Reading Pride.

Would you boycott Chick-fil-A if it opened in your south west London town? Leave a comment on this article.

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