In this day and age, it’s unusual not to be able to get our hands on something the moment we decide we want it. After all, we experience instant gratification in nearly all aspects of our lives, and that includes the food we crave. Most big chain restaurants are open seven days a week, with some even open 24 hours a day, and thanks to services like Amazon Prime and Postmates, even if we don’t feel like putting on pants and making the pilgrimage to our favorite fast food joint, we can still have Big Macs and Chalupas delivered to us in under an hour.
But Chick-fil-A doesn’t care about your desire for instant gratification — at least not on Sundays. The chicken sandwich purveyors are famously closed on the seventh day of the week, and not even a big-time food delivery service can hack that schedule.
When a restaurant is as popular as CFA, why in the world would they close 52 days a year? It turns out the answer is a little more complicated that you probably thought.
It means a lot in lost revenue
Make no mistake about it — Chick-fil-A does a booming business. In fact, analysts predicted in 2018 that CFA would overtake competitors like Taco Bell, Subway, and Wendy’s to become the third largest restaurant by sales. That’s impressive, considering they’re only open six days a week.
Where would Chick-fil-A rank if they stayed open that seventh day every week, slinging waffle fries and chicken sandwiches to the masses? It’s hard to say for sure, but the Los Angeles Times reported in 2012 that the amount of lost revenue due to the company’s Sunday closures hovered around $47.5 million. Given how much CFA has grown in the years since then, we can only assume that number has gotten bigger and bigger. Any way you slice it, whether it’s $50 million or $100 million, it’s a whole lot of money to leave on the table. But hey, with their annual per-unit sales blowing giants like McDonald’s and Burger King out of the water, Chick-fil-A doesn’t seem to be hurting too much, even with their doors firmly shut once a week.
They were even closed for Super Bowl Sunday
If Chick-fil-A is fine with forgoing something to the tune of $50 million in revenue each year due to their "closed on Sunday" policy, do you really think a little thing like the Super Bowl is going to compel them to open their doors? No, no it will not.
In 2019, Super Bowl LIII was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where CFA happens to have a location. But fans hoping to grab one of their iconic sandwiches were in for a whole lot of disappointment when instead of a delicious deep-fried chicken patty, all they could score were some french fries. That’s because Chick-fil-A didn’t budge on their policy, and Fries Up took over their space for the day, selling only french fries with toppings aplenty, which might normally be fine if you weren’t craving "mor chikin."
Considering the stadium had more than 70,000 fans in attendance for the big game, with more than 110,000 food and beverage transactions, including 117,000 beers sold, it’s safe to say that CFA missed out on an opportunity to make some serious money. Because what goes better with beer than a juicy chicken sandwich?
So why have a location inside an NFL stadium?
You might be scratching your head wondering why Chick-fil-A would choose to open a location in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a stadium that is primarily known as home to the Atlanta Falcons, who happen to play football on — you know this one — Sundays, when CFA is closed. Yes, there are a handful of Thursday night games, but surely that’s not paying the rent. So why bother?
According to the stadium’s franchise operator Jonathan Hollis, "We’re open for about 100 events a year that happen right here at the stadium. We have Atlanta United soccer games, concerts, college football games, high school football games, band competitions and more," including the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. They do so much business during these events, in fact, that they have to start prepping four hours before the doors open. Hollis told CFA’s The Chicken Wire, "Having a Chick-fil-A in the stadium allows us to serve a myriad of people throughout the year at all sorts of events. We’re here when they’re making memories. And we want to create those memories with them — it’s what we do best." Just don’t expect to make any of those memories on a Sunday.
It actually works to the company’s advantage
Think about human nature for a second… don’t we always want what we can’t have? You’re cruising through your week, not thinking about Chick-fil-A sandwiches and waffle fries even once, when suddenly it’s Sunday and you’ve never wanted something more badly in your life. Is that the real reason CFA closes every seventh day? No, but it also probably doesn’t hurt to encourage a little Monday afternoon spike in traffic.
That’s the law of supply and demand, and Restaurant Business says Chick-fil-A’s once-a-week closure helps in giving a "perception of limited supply," but there are other important ways that the policy works to the company’s advantage. For one, it’s "respectable." RB explains that it shows that the company is willing to miss out on some revenue to give franchisees and employees a guaranteed day off each week, and in turn allows the franchisees to use it as a perk in recruiting. Happier employees mean better business, right? All in all, it’s a win for the company, even if their bottom line suffers a bit.
It catches people off guard, even those who work there
It’s probably not too uncommon for customers to pull into a Chick-fil-A parking lot only to remember that it’s Sunday, and realize with utter disappointment that they will not be satisfying their CFA craving that day. But if you are an employee of the chain? No way could you make that mistake… or could you?
This Redditor explained their most infuriating Chick-fil-A story, saying, "So five of us were on a mission trip one time, and we’d been talking about going to Chick-fil-A all freakin’ week. Where we were staying didn’t have one nearby, so we had to wait until we were closer to home. I was kinda leading the excitement, so once we crossed the state line, I start blasting Chick-fil-A songs through the car stereo. We’re all waving our hands out the windows like a bunch of idiots, yelling at cars, ‘We’re going to Chick-fil-A!!’ We’re all adults, btw, save the 12-year-old in the back. This must’ve gone in at least an hour. We pull into Chick-fil-A, and we all kinda go silent. I turn off the music. We all just sit there for a while, not saying anything, and everyone looks like I’ve just killed their puppy. I worked there. And it was Sunday." Womp, womp.
It allows restaurants to give back
While their Sunday closures might aggravate a few customers, it allows Chick-fil-A to focus on something that’s important to the company: giving back to the community.
What do you do, for instance, with an empty parking lot every Sunday? If you’re located three blocks from AT&T Stadium, home to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, you take advantage of your location and you charge ticket-holders to park in your lot — or at least that’s what one Arlington, Texas CFA did.
In a brilliant move, franchise owner Carmenza Moreno decided that rather than barricade her restaurant’s parking lot every Sunday, she’d open it up to allow fans to park (and pay). "Barricading the parking lot seemed a little unfriendly and anti-community in spirit," she explained to The Chicken Wire. But the money doesn’t pad Moreno’s pocketbook — it all goes to the groups who man the lot each Sunday. In four years, the parking lot fundraiser has generated more than $62,000 to local organizations, and if Chick-fil-A was open seven days a week, there’s no way that would be possible.
They have made a few exceptions over the years
If Chick-fil-A won’t even open for Super Bowl Sunday in the stadium where the actual game is being played, they must not open for any reason whatsoever, right? It turns out they have made a few exceptions.
Over the years, there have been a handful of incidents that have prompted CFA to fire up those deep-fryers, and unfortunately the circumstances behind the openings aren’t great. Basically, if they’re serving sandwiches on a Sunday, something pretty bad has probably happened. "While Chick-fil-A is always closed on Sunday, our restaurants open occasionally to serve communities in need," a company spokesperson told Business Insider.
Those times include prepping and donating meals for the rescue teams and evacuees of North Carolina’s destructive Hurricane Florence in 2018, feeding thousands of hungry, stranded passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2017 after the power went out indefinitely, feeding first responders of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, and providing free meals to first responders and victims in 2015 after storms and tornados slammed Dallas.
One thing is clear — Chick-fil-A clearly has no interest in profiting from a Sunday opening.
It stems from the founder’s religious beliefs
It’s no secret that the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, was a devout Christian, and the "corporate purpose" on the company’s website even reads, "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A." It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that Cathy’s "closed on Sunday" policy originally stemmed from his religious beliefs.
According to a Chick-fil-A press release from 2009, "Cathy’s practice of closing his restaurants on Sunday is unique to the restaurant business and a testament to his faith in God. Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the ‘Lord’s Day.’ … Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life; and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people. Cathy believes that by giving employees Sunday off as a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, the company attracts quality people…"
Today, though, the company seems to have walked back from this explanation a bit in favor of a slightly less Christian-centric one…
The company’s explanation today
You won’t find a lengthy explanation of Truett Cathy’s Christian beliefs and how they influenced his decision to enact his "closed on Sunday" policy on Chick-fil-A’s website today. What you will find is a brief blurb explaining, "Our founder, Truett Cathy, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours, Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose — a practice we uphold today."
In an accompanying video titled "Closed on Sunday," the company speaks to the importance of the day off, not just for their employees, but for their customers to: "So while we’re off today, we hope you can be with your family and friends," it says. "That’s the thought behind each Sunday story — delivering recipes, activities, and inspiration that might bring you a little closer together."
It turns out Truett Cathy was ahead of his time
Today we refer to it as "mindfulness." When founder Truett Cathy opened Chick-fil-A, the term probably wasn’t being thrown around as often as it is now. But all those years ago Cathy’s intuition that closing his restaurants every Sunday would be a valuable asset for the company has proven to be a lesson in mindfulness that today’s workforce badly needs.
Thanks to his policy, Chick-fil-A employees have a guaranteed day off — during the weekend, no less — and that helps maintain the oh-so-delicate work/life balance we’re all striving to achieve. Although it’s a rare perk for those working in the fast food industry, it’s long been important to employees’ well-being. Retired clinical psychologist Jan Fite told The Chicken Wire, "Treating Sunday as a day of rest has always been relevant. We all need to step out of our everyday lives and disconnect from routine, make time for ourselves and loved ones, and get out of performance mode." Especially today, when we’re subjected to the constant onslaught of news and social media.
Could Cathy have possibly predicted that the world would be this fast-paced, and that today’s employees would feel so over-worked and under-appreciated? It sure looks like he did. And according to page after page after page of job reviews, the "closed on Sunday" policy is a perk that most Chick-fil-A workers greatly value.
There is one way to satisfy your Sunday CFA cravings
No, there isn’t some super-secret Chick-fil-A location that’s open on Sunday, but there is a way to ensure that you’re prepared for a Sunday CFA craving, as long as Nuggets or Chick-N-Strips will scratch that itch…
Yes, CFA conveniently sells trays of chilled nuggets and strips, which you can purchase on a Saturday and reheat on a Sunday. And yes, of course it comes complete with all your favorite CFA sauces — what good is a tray of nuggets without that sweet, sweet Chick-fil-A Sauce, anyway?
Of course, oven-reheated deep-fried nuggets are never as good as the real thing served fresh from bubbling oil, but at least it’s something, right? While the company does offer their entire menu through their catering division, it’s probably safe to say that you’re better off skipping the sandwiches and waffle fries if you’re planning to wait a day to eat them, unless soggy buns and limp fries are your thing.