The popular restaurant chain Chick-Fil-A has built up its reputation since its opening in Georgia in the 1960s. In the northeast, the chain enjoyed a brand rating of 76 according to the YouGov BrandIndex, well above the average in the 40s. However, after Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan T. Cathy voiced his displeasure with same-sex marriages in 2012, the company’s reputation took its biggest hit. Chick-Fil-A fell 41 points to a rating of 35.
In a time of crisis, you hope to have the best crisis team behind you. Luckily, Chick-Fil-A was prepared for what was to come.
The company offered an apology, stating it would leave the policy and issues of same-sex marriage to the government. It also agreed to stop contributing to organizations that discriminate against same-sex marriage groups. Throughout the uproar, Cathy became friends with Shane Windmeyer, the executive director for the gay and lesbian student group Campus Pride. Windmeyer saw the tax records proving the restaurant had pulled its support from groups like Family Research Council, and he spread word of the chain’s willingness to change.
Chick-Fil-A’s sales increased 14 percent from 2011 to 2012. It also opened 96 new stores, four more than in 2011. From these statistics, it is hard to tell that they were ever in the middle of a crisis situation.
Chick-Fil-A recently returned to headlines with its announcement to switch to antibiotic-free chicken in all its restaurants within the next five years. Chick-Fil-A will work with the USDA to make sure its chickens are antibiotic-free from the hatchery to the processing plant. After performing consumer research, Chick-Fil-A found that people are interested in knowing how their food is made.
"Transparency in our food is important to our customers, and it's important to us too," said Cathy.
It will be interesting to see how this transition affects the brand’s reputation. The switch also offers Chick-Fil-A the potential to gain new publics, since they are the first fast food company to commit to being 100 percent antibiotic-free.
By Ali Seys
PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.