Chick-fil-A’s First U.K. Location Already Slated to Close After Just One Week in Business
Following protests, Chick-fil-A's landlord in Reading said it won't renew the chain's lease.
Fast food isn't supposed to be as polarizing as Chick-fil-A. Yes, some customers may shun a certain chain because of the taste or quality. More involved consumers might worry about a chain's sourcing or sustainability. But with Chick-fil-A, on one side, fans praise the brand's food—pushing it to the top of customer satisfaction rankings and making it one of the fastest growing restaurants in the country—while on the other side, critics condemn the chain's (more specifically its owners and their foundation's) politics, which are have come under criticism for being anti-LGBTQ. Compounding the issue is that these two groups aren't even always mutually exclusive.
England recently got a fresh taste of this controversy, and things have not ended well for Chick-fil-A. On October 10, the United Kingdom saw its first permanent Chick-fil-A location open in The Oracle shopping center in Reading, but by the following Friday—after a week of protests from LGBTQ supporters—The Oracle had already announced it would not renew the chain's lease. "We always look to introduce new concepts for our customers, however, we have decided on this occasion that the right thing to do is to only allow Chick-fil-A to trade with us for the initial six-month pilot period, and not to extend the lease any further," the shopping center said according to The Guardian. The group Reading Pride reportedly said they plan to continue protesting until the outpost officially closes regardless.
Though some Americans are sure to brush off the whole situation as a British overreaction, the response and Chick-fil-A's subsequent shunning could actually be a significant setback for the company. As Eater London reported this August, Chick-fil-A appeared to be seriously eyeing the British Isles as its next grounds for expansion. After a one-day pop-up in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2018, the brand's Vice President, International, Rich Matherne took a very positive tone. "We are really excited to explore different cities across the country including Edinburgh as a possible future location and showcase what Chick-fil-A has to offer," he was quoted as saying.
Matherne's comment may have been more prescient than he realized. Regardless of how you personally feel about the company, it's safe to say that, after a week in Reading, Brits definitely had a chance to see everything a Chick-fil-A location has to offer.