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Chick-fil-A Set to Make a Second Attempt in the UK, Four Years After LGBTQ+ Controversy


An American fast food chain that faced protests from the LGBTQ+ community during its previous attempt to establish a presence in the UK is planning a fresh venture. Chick-Fil-A intends to open five restaurants in the UK, with the locations yet to be determined. The first of these restaurants is set to debut in early 2025.

During its earlier UK expansion in 2019, the company faced backlash due to its founders' support for Christian organizations that opposed same-sex marriage. Although it is still under the leadership of the Cathy family who founded it, Chick-Fil-A has made policy changes in recent years. In 2020, they appointed their first head of diversity and shifted their charitable focus towards education and addressing hunger.

However, the company maintains its policy of not opening restaurants on Sundays, which will also apply in the UK. Joanna Symonds, Chick-Fil-A's head of UK operations, stated that they aim to positively impact the communities they operate in, encouraging their franchise operators to collaborate with organizations supporting local communities.

Chick-Fil-A plans to invest over $100 million in the UK over the next decade, primarily through franchise-owned sites, each creating 80 to 120 jobs. The company, renowned for its chicken sandwiches, already operates 2,800 outlets in the US, Puerto Rico, and Canada and has intentions to expand further in Europe and Asia.

Founded in 1946 by Samuel Truett Cathy, the company has been family-managed since its inception. In 2012, then-CEO Dan Cathy stirred controversy by expressing opposition to gay marriage. While his comments drew criticism from the LGBTQ+ community, many customers in the southern US, where most of the chain's restaurants are located, expressed support.

Gay rights activists also raised concerns about the Cathy family's financial contributions to Christian organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army. Chick-Fil-A maintained that its donations were not intended to support a particular social or political agenda and emphasized the diversity of its workforce.

The Salvation Army clarified its stance, stating opposition to any form of discrimination, marginalization, or persecution. With its new UK expansion, Chick-Fil-A highlighted its current charitable initiatives, including one-time donations to local non-profit organizations upon restaurant openings and the distribution of surplus food to local shelters, soup kitchens, and food charities. These policies will also be implemented in its UK branches.