I promise, this
will could be my last word on the subject of Chick-fil-A and its donations, barring some deep revelation of the back story (which I am working on). The unbelievable brouhaha over the franchisor of chicken sandwich restaurants and its charitable foundation’s giving is almost overwhelming in its missing the point.
I know: It looks bad. Chick-fil-A undoubtedly has suffered a PR breakdown, but one no worse than Nike, or even its competition in the chicken restaurant biz, Popeyes (who literally ran out of sandwiches). But let’s be as clear as the juice running off a well-cooked skinless breast: This is about a chicken sandwich chain making a business decision.
This is not your church. This is not the Boy Scouts of America, with a freaking Supreme Court ruling to back it up, giving up the absolute legal right to regulate who is a scout leader in charge of your pubescent and adolescent male children. This is not your personal church denomination deciding to ordain gay clergy, or perform gay weddings, or run a transgender adoption center.
Left-leaning companies make business decisions all the time, and we conservative blogger/pundit/radio host/peanut gallery folks get all over their backs when they put their personal worldview into their decisions, to the point that they jeopardize business. When Target caved to genderless restrooms, they caved to less than one percent of the population, and they put kids in danger from stray idiots walking into the bathroom of the other sex. This has happened.
But this is not what Chick-fil-A has done. They made a decision about less than two hundredths of one percent of their revenue in donations. They tried to get out ahead of a story undoubtedly brewing about their support of the now-canceled Salvation Army (which, by the way, is a bona-fide church). It was a decision about less than $200,000. It was a business decision.
Chick-fil-A is a franchisor. It has stakeholders–franchisees. These want to open new stores to make money. Some places in America–and especially overseas–have become hostile to the company. I’m sure there was internal pressure to change some things in deference to these stakeholders. We’re not talking about caving to social pressure in the way the Boy Scouts of a church denomination did. We’re talking about a fast-growing business.
And about the timing: every November, the Chick-fil-A foundation publishes their previous year Form 990 and announces the next year’s scope of giving. When else would the list of charities be published? Maybe the timing is bad, but it would be bad no matter when they made a change. And if they didn’t make a change, you bet it would be in the news that Chick-fil-A continued to support the now-canceled Salvation Army, the now-anathema FCA, and the positively bigoted Covenant House.
And the franchisees would have to wait another year–or never–to open new markets. Of course, this is exactly what the company president/COO Tim Tassopoulos said. He was being truthful, poor guy. His PR failed, because the truth isn’t what those who think Chick-fil-A is their church want to hear. They want their idol to be perfect (who doesn’t)?
So the company walked a tightrope to try to please everyone, and in the process they fell. And now everyone’s running with bloody knives to enlarge the wounds. But in the end, this is about serving chicken sandwiches, not about religion.
If you choose where you eat your chicken sandwiches–or if you choose any restaurant–based on the worldview of the owners, I’m sorry for you. Truly I am. Because you will be let down again and again, and you will never enjoy your food.
Chick-fil-A isn’t everyone’s thing. Fine. But let’s not make this about everything that it’s not. If you mention donations at the order kiosk when you place your chicken order, they’ll even tell you: “Ma’am, this is a Chick-fil-A. Would you like to order a sandwich?” Can we please stop this cultural hand-wringing and get back to eating?