TORONTO — Chick-Fil-A, one of America’s most famous chicken-restaurant chains, will open its doors in Toronto next year — a move that is sure to fulfill Canadian consumers hungry for new food options.
However, it will also incite others who’ve long accused the chain of being discriminatory against the LGBTQ+ community. Reaction to the company’s July 25 announcement was mixed, highlighting a reality that its operators face when its doors open in 2019.
“Toronto has a strong economy, vibrant restaurant scene and a great talent pool which are important factors because we’re planning to open 15 locations in five years, creating more than 750 jobs,” Chick-Fil-A representatives told Foodservice and Hospitality magazine in an email.
The company’s appreciation for diversity hasn’t historically been extended to the queer community, according to Business Insider. Chick-Fil-A’s charitable network, WinShape Foundation, was found in 2012 to have donated millions of dollars to groups funding anti-gay “conversion therapy” and opposing the fight for marriage equality in the U.S.
“We do understand and appreciate that Torontonians will have questions about our history. We’ve faced similar questions in other markets in recent years — [in] places like Chicago, New York, Portland and Seattle,” Chick-Fil-A representatives noted. “What we ask is that Torontonians give us a try, because we’re sure that when you do, you will find we offer a welcoming environment.”
Over the years, Chick-Fil-A has vowed to stop supporting groups with political agendas in an attempt to revitalize its image. It has warned franchisees to keep their private beliefs away from public foodservice to avoid unnecessary protests and backlash. They’ve also encouraged franchisees to become engaged in their communities
It’s unclear how Canadians will welcome Chick-Fil-A restaurants and also unknown how the company will address its history in one of Canada’s most vibrant LGBTQ communities.
But, if successful, the American QSR chain could make a huge impact, especially in the breakfast market, which has been growing due to all-day breakfast-menu offerings from companies such as McDonald’s and A&W. What’s more, it could also create a new lane for future franchisees to get involved.
“We’ve seen great reception so far — on the day we announced we were coming to Toronto, nearly 1,000 people contacted us to express their interest in operating a location,” Chick-Fil-A representatives say.
“We are planning to serve much of the same breakfast offerings as we do in our U.S. restaurants — which are centered around our Chick-Fil-A biscuit and Chick-N-minis (bite-sized savory Chick-Fil-A nuggets in a warm yeast roll and a touch of honey butter).”
It’s still unknown if the company will offer all-day breakfast in Canada, but representatives say they will know closer to the opening date at its Toronto location.
Tony Elenis, president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA), says American QSR chains showing confidence is the Canadian market is a huge boon for the industry overall, offering more variety for consumers.
“They have an excellent and quality product. It has a model that supports the employee satisfaction as well as the consumer aspect. For a major corporation to look at Ontario as a growth opportunity, it speaks very well about where we are as an industry.”