God bless Chick-fil-A. Despite all the negative press over its unabashedly religious conservative identity, the fast food franchise in June climbed from the seventh-largest restaurant chain in the United States to the third. This meant blowing past Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Subway, and earning $10.46 billion in American store sales, up 17 percent for the year. That placed Chick-fil-A behind only McDonald’s ($38.52 billion in U.S. sales) and Starbucks ($20.49 billion). This is a most welcome development, given the growing tentacles of woke capitalism.
Too many corporations have been using their financial power as a blunt instrument to demand obeisance from governments, while restaurants are increasingly refusing service to people because of their conservative politics. In the face of this ideological onslaught, conservatives need to be intentional about where they shop. Inasmuch as corporations kowtow to the latest memes or celebrity protests, they undermine or obscure their brands, and needlessly make enemies. Conservatives need to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with their wallets. I’d suggest that one of the easiest ways to do this is to eat at restaurants that eschew woke capitalist ideology or even explicitly promote conservative values.
It’s no secret that Chick-fil-A is influenced by conservative Christian beliefs. The company’s official statement of corporate purpose states that it exists “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” Much to the chagrin of customers, the chain is also closed on Sundays, a decision made by devout Southern Baptist founder S. Truett Cathy. Corporate leadership was previously outspoken in its opposition to same-sex marriage, though, as its website declares, “the Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our Restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect—regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.” The New Yorker last year ran a hit piece against the chain for standing by its conservative religious values.
Of course, Chick-fil-A also offers delicious fast food. The fried chicken, waffle fries, and unique sauces are all addictive. Much could also be said of the sweet tea, the ice cream shakes, and the frozen lemonade and limeade. The customer service is also exemplary. “The level of customer satisfaction is highly differentiated from many of their fast-food peers,” notes one food industry expert. Chick-fil-A has done something many thought impossible: train teenagers to treat people with respect and consider the needs of others first. Did you hear the recent story of a Chick-fil-A employee who jumped through the drive-through window to save a choking boy? The chain has successfully exported Southern charm far beyond its origins in Georgia. Moreover, local chains routinely support their communities. Last year, our local Chick-fil-A put on a big event that included guest appearances from the fire and police departments. My kids loved it.
A lesser known, but also fine conservative-leaning restaurant chain is Mission BBQ, which opened its doors for business on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. As its website explains: “Ten years after our world changed forever, in some small way we wanted to change it back…. We strive every day to remind everyone what makes Our Country great—its heroes.” Visitors to Mission BBQ will be struck by the unabashed patriotism of the establishment, its walls lined with photos of veterans, police officers, and firemen; American and state flags; and patches from various military, police, and firefighting units. Every restaurant shuts down for two minutes at noon, when everyone stops to sing the national anthem. This can be a bit arresting. Yet it’s still powerful, reminding Americans, regardless of their race or religion, that we all share a common bond through our national identity.
The chain, which began in Glen Burnie, Maryland, and is now in 11 states, was founded by Bill Kraus and Steve Newton. Newton explains of the restaurant’s origins: “We were two Midwestern kids growing up on the East Coast and had a lot in common: faith, family and friends were important.” They were both passionate about BBQ. “We believe there is nothing more American than BBQ,” their website declares, and who could disagree? They traveled the country—Texas, Kansas City, the Carolinas, St. Louis—bent on discovering “the secrets of great BBQ,” and they succeeded. The meat is perfectly cooked, the BBQ representative of diverse American culinary traditions. The restaurant combines great food with a mission to honor “our soldiers, firefighters, police officers, first responders—all our loved ones in service.”
This era of woke capitalist tyranny demands a response. Conservatives need to be more circumspect about where they dine, because our eating habits, like many of our other spending habits, have a broad impact on the fate of conservatism in our country. The more we support restaurant chains like Chick-fil-A and Mission BBQ, the more we will buoy broader causes that protect our freedom to live, think, and worship as we please. So raise a cup of sweet tea to the success of Chick-fil-A.
Casey Chalk is a student at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College. He covers religion and other issues for The American Conservative.