From the chain’s delicious chicken sandwiches to its refreshing milkshakes, anybody who’s set foot in a Chick-fil-A has probably found plenty of reasons to love the fast food restaurant. But, as with most fast food places, it’s easy to have a love-hate relationship with Chick-fil-A — and not just because of what’s on its menus (or secret menus.)
From skimpy portions of fries and sandwiches that aren’t quite as good as you’d think to dicey politics and an excessively exclusive loyalty program, read on to check out some of the best reasons many Americans can’t help but hate Chick-fil-A (even if they crave that Polynesian sauce every once in a while).
1. Chick-fil-A doesn’t have the best chicken sandwiches
You’d think a chain that specializes in chicken would consistently turn out the best chicken sandwich in the fast food business. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. According to Thrillist, Chick-fil-A doesn’t have the best chicken sandwich. The chain’s classic sandwich only makes it to fourth place in Eat This, Not That’s exhaustive ranking.
2. The chain’s fries are less crispy than its competitors’
Waffle fries have become synonymous with Chick-fil-A. But have you ever stopped to think about whether they’re really superior to the traditional fries you can get at the chain’s competitors? Business Insider reports Chick-fil-A’s “waffle fries have a few downsides. They’re generally less crispy, and you have to deal with those strange, oddly shaped ‘fry butts.'”
And Fox News reports according to food critics, waffle fries are generally larger and not as crispy as other kinds of fries — thought that might make them the ideal vehicle for ketchup. Plus, the chain doesn’t win any praise in Delish’s investigation into which fast food chain is most generous with its fries.
3. It has a loyalty program you can’t sign up for
Many chain restaurants have loyalty programs. But usually, they want to make it easy for customers to enroll. Not Chick-fil-A. The chain has a loyalty program — called the A-List — that requires potential members to be invited by another member to join.
The program is supposedly open to anyone (if you have a friend who can invite you to join). But it doesn’t seem to be offered in half of the chain’s restaurants. So even if you can get in, you might not be able to take advantage of the perks — such as free food and exclusive offers — at your favorite location.
4. Chick-fil-A’s ad campaigns are the worst
Even people who love Chick-fil-A’s food will admit the company’s ad campaigns can get pretty annoying. After all, cows that can inexplicably perform stunts and paint billboards — but can’t be bothered to use proper spelling — might not be the best (or most grammatically correct) mascots. Business Insider reports on a billboard in 1995, the chain introduced the cows and the message, “Eat mor Chikin.” Both have stuck around, much to the chagrin of customers who find the ads incongruous, silly, or downright annoying.
5. The company can’t seem to get its pop culture references right
Regardless of whether you think the company runs annoying ad campaigns, you have to admit Chick-fil-A doesn’t always nail another part of its interaction with customers: its pop culture references. For instance, Chick-fil-A provoked Beyoncé’s fan base with a lemonade joke. On a few of its marquees, the company wrote, “SORRY BEYONCE OUR LEMONADE IS BETTER!!” and “LEMONADE FRESHER THAN BEYONCE’S.” It doesn’t matter how much you love the chain’s lemonade. If you’re also a fan of Beyoncé, then you see the problem with the chain claiming its lemonade is better than Beyoncé’s.
6. Chick-fil-A uses peanut oil
Chick-fil-A fries its chicken in peanut oil. The company brags it’s the biggest buyer of U.S. peanut oil. The peanut oil contributes to the taste of the chain’s chicken sandwich. But it’s also naturally free of trans fats, free of cholesterol, and low in saturated fat. That might sound like a healthy option (though remember, we’re talking about fried chicken). And Serious Eats reports peanut oil is great for deep-frying.
But it’s less than ideal for the growing number of Americans with peanut allergies. Chick-fil-A promises the “refining process removes the protein from the peanut oil that triggers an allergic reaction.” But many parents of kids with allergies report their allergist recommends avoiding the chain, though others eat at Chick-fil-A without a reaction.
7. The company has had to recall its desserts
Another strike against Chick-fil-A for those who worry about the chain’s handling of allergens? Delish reports Chick-fil-A had to recall its chocolate chunk cookies after it came to light the flour it used to bake the cookies was contaminated with peanuts. Chick-fil-A told customers at the time, “People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.”
8. You can’t get Chick-fil-A on Sundays
It might be the most popular complaint about Chick-fil-A. But we have to mention it anyway. Chick-fil-A closes its stores on Sundays. As Mental Floss reports, company founder S. Truett Cathy explained the policy in a documentary about Chick-fil-A. “I was thoroughly exhausted, and I had to make a decision. I needed that day, I want to preserve that day. Sunday is the Lord’s Day. … We haven’t been open on Sunday in 50 years, and we don’t intend to change that policy.”
Over the years, rumors have occasionally indicated the company’s stores would begin to stay open on Sundays. But they’ve been definitively debunked.
9. The company is sneaky about making changes to its menu
Some fast food chains make splashy announcements when they make changes to their menu. But Chick-fil-A has been quietly making changes to its menu. And customers aren’t happy about it. The company quietly dropped the Spicy Chicken Biscuit (more on that later), oatmeal, and cinnamon clusters from its breakfast menu. It dropped coleslaw to make room for its “superfood” salad.
The company also changed the recipes for some of its sauces and salad dressings. Customers have complained loudly. And Chick-fil-A even had to bring back its original barbecue sauce in response to protests.
10. It’s offered some dubious health advice
Most Americans know they shouldn’t take healthy eating advice from a fast food chain. But that hasn’t stopped Chick-fil-A from dishing out some truly strange health tips. As Delish reports, the company printed takeout bags with some “great ideas for healthier living.”
In one tip, Chick-fil-A recommends that customers “kick off the New Year by adding one healthy habit to your routine. Here’s a good one: Eat smaller meals (like an 8-count pack of grilled nuggets) every three to four hours.” We doubt most nutritionists would advise eating chicken nuggets, grilled or not, every few hours throughout your day.
11. Chick-fil-A got rid of a fan favorite item
In the process of adding healthier choices to its menu, Chick-fil-A decided something old had to go. So, as Delish reports, the company opted to jettison the Spicy Chicken Biscuit, a fan favorite from the breakfast menu. The change made room for the new Egg White Grill, which includes grilled chicken breast, grilled egg whites, and American cheese on a multigrain English muffin. But some Chick-fil-A customers say the Spicy Chicken Biscuit was the only reason they went to the chain for breakfast.
12. Chick-fil-A requires employees to respond, ‘My pleasure’
Nobody minds having a polite conversation with a fast food worker. But many Chick-fil-A customers are creeped out by hearing the chain’s employees respond, “My pleasure,” during every interaction. However, as you might have guessed, it’s not the employees’ fault. Chick-fil-A actually requires its employees to respond to customers with the phrase, “My pleasure.” And the company trains its workers to say “please” and “thank you,” earning it the title of the most polite restaurant chain.
13. It doesn’t seem to have progressive views on parenting
Whenever Chick-fil-A makes a change or introduces an ad that should appeal to parents, it ruins the moment, at least for some of its customers, by portraying some pretty regressive views on who’s doing the parenting. The company debuted an ad that was meant to praise millennial moms, but it got branded as “sexist” because it showed only mothers, not fathers, getting their kids ready to go in the morning.
The company also debuted a service, needlessly labeled “Mom’s Valet,” to attract more customers with young children. Plus, it doesn’t help that the company has been sued for gender discrimination by an employee who was fired so that, in the words of her manager, she could be a stay-at-home mother.
14. The company donated to groups that oppose same-sex marriage
In 2012, Chick-fil-A found itself in the middle of a major controversy. It came to light that the company had donated money to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage and advocated the passage of Proposition 8 in California. (Delish has a useful timeline of the developments.) Founder S. Truett Cathy’s son, Dan, told the press the company supported “traditional family values” and the “the biblical definition of the family unit.” His comments sparked protests, calls to boycott Chick-fil-A, and college campuses ending their contracts with the chain.
But as The Atlantic notes, the company eventually decided to stop making donations to groups involved with the issue. And it expressed its intent “to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”
15. All anybody can talk about is how the company donated to groups that oppose same-sex marriage
No matter your politics, you’ve probably gotten tired of hearing people argue about Chick-fil-A and what its chicken sandwiches stand for. But it seems that debate will continue to smolder. Some argue it’s time to forgive Chick-fil-A. Others note it’s not effective to contribute to the boycott culture “that’s springing up across America.”
But others say that the company’s giving is still a problem. Either way, The Atlantic reports Christianity is undeniably “a fundamental part of the Chick-fil-A brand, shaping business decisions and helping the company differentiate itself from its chicken-cooking competitors.”