Chick-fil-A is hoping its future plans for the UK go better than its last entry into the country.
The fast-food chain announced Thursday it planned to open its first permanent store in the country in early 2025, with four more to follow over the next two years. The company plans to invest $100 million in the country over the next 10 years.
In 2019, though, a pop-up location by the company was closed after gay rights advocates protested its presence there. (The mall hosting the location refused to extend the pop-up’s lease beyond the six-month trial.
In 2012, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy characterized the U.S. as “inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and we say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” That sparked a backlash that has not yet cooled down.
In 2019, the company said it would no longer contribute to two organizations that had been accused of being anti-LGBTQ, which garnered it praise from GLAAD and other groups. In 2022, however, Cathy (and, by extension, the company) came under fire again for reportedly donating large amounts of money to an organization that was attempting to derail the Equality Act.
The company, unsurprisingly, did not mention the controversy from its last visit to the country in the announcement, choosing instead to focus on the economic benefits.
“We are excited our restaurants will bring new jobs and opportunities throughout the UK. Serving communities is at the heart of everything we do at Chick-fil-A, and our unique local owner-operator model provides one-of-a-kind access to entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Anita Costello Chief International Officer at Chick-fil-A Inc. in a statement.
The U.K. isn’t the only place the popular chain has run into problems because of its politics. In 2019, the San Antonio district council approved a new concession agreement for the city’s airport that brought in more local establishments and specifically barred the chicken sandwich chain. At issue, was the donation of money by the Chick-Fil-A to groups that have been accused of discriminating against the LGBTQ community.
The move to open a U.K. store is part of a $1 billion expansion into Europe and Asia by Chick-Fil-A.