Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain best known for its chicken sandwiches and Sunday closings, reached $5.8 billion in revenue in 2021. This was up 33.3% from the previous year. With its 2,074 locations, Chick-fil-A may seem like it could be a lucrative investment opportunity.
So what is Chick-fil-A’s stock price, and how easily can an investor get a piece of the profits? Here’s why Chick-fil-A isn’t touted as a top stock pick and why investors likely won’t be buying up shares any time soon.
Can You Buy Chick-fil-A Stock?
If you check for the fast-food industry’s top stock picks, you will not find a recommendation for Chick-fil-A. Unfortunately for investors, Chick-fil-A is not a publicly-traded company. This means that investors cannot buy Chick-fil-A stock.
Before his death in 2014, Chick-fil-A’s founder had his children sign a contract that Chick-fil-A would continue as a privately-held company. There is no contract preventing the sale of the company, so Chick-fil-A could someday end up under the ownership of someone who might take the company public. But for now, Chick-fil-A remains a family-owned, privately-held company.
Who Owns Chick-fil-A?
The first Chick-fil-A was opened in 1967 in an Atlanta shopping center by S. Truett Cathy, although his restaurant business started in 1946 with a small diner called the Dwarf Grill. Cathy passed away in 2014, and the Truett family still owns Chick-fil-A. The current owners are brothers Dan and Don, sons of Truett Cathy. Dan Cathy held his father’s former role as CEO until last year, when his grandson Andrew Truett Cathy took over.
Cathy left behind 12 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, so there are plenty of heirs to pass ownership to and keep the company in the family.
How Successful Is Chick-fil-A?
Despite having a menu limited to chicken, Chick-fil-A held the third spot in terms of U.S. restaurant sales in 2019. The Chick-fil-A menu is quite simple, offering just chicken variations and, of course, its waffle fries. But its limited menu generates a lot of repeat business thanks to the company’s focus on customer service. Chick-fil-A even made headlines last year as America’s favorite fast-food chain.
The company navigated the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the food service industry fairly well, with revenues increasing by 33.3% and profits growing by a whopping 67.3%. Much of this was from royalties, rents and fees paid by franchisees — or “operators,” as Chick-fil-A calls them. As of December 31, 2021, the fast-food company had roughly 2,704 locations nationwide. Of these Chick-fil-A locations, 2,235 were franchise stores run by operators.
Domestic franchised locations — other than those in malls — averaged annual sales of more than $8.1 million in 2021. The mall locations averaged an annual sales volume of more than $3.2 million that same year. Chick-fil-A achieved these numbers despite being closed on Sundays. No other fast-food chain earns as much per store as Chick-fil-A, not even McDonald’s.
Is There Any Way to Profit From Chick-fil-A?
While investors can’t buy Chick-fil-A stock, a lucky few can make money from Chick-fil-A as franchisees or licensees. Here’s a look at Chick-fil-A’s franchise model and licensing opportunity.
How Chick-fil-A Franchising Works
Chick-fil-A franchisees don’t own the store they operate and profit from, nor do they own any equity in the business. They do not have the option to sell it or pass it on to heirs. Chick-fil-A retains ownership of every store.
Chick-fil-A franchisees, called operators, are hand-picked from thousands of applicants and must undergo a rigorous training program. Anyone interested in becoming a franchisee as a passive investment will be passed over. The corporate office wants hands-on operators who are involved in the daily operation of the store.
The franchise fee required to become a Chick-fil-A operator is only $10,000. All other costs to get a new store up and running are covered by Chick-fil-A. So the cost to become a Chick-fil-A operator is within reach of many people. But the corporate office makes sure it gets its share of every operator’s profits.
Franchisees pay Chick-fil-A the following each month:
- An operating service fee equal to 15% of restaurant sales minus any equipment rentals and business services fees
- An additional operating service fee equal to 50% of their store’s profit
- Rent for the land and the retail space when applicable
So investing in Chick-fil-A as a franchisee might not be as lucrative as one might hope.
Good To Know
Competition is steep for anyone looking to become a Chick-fil-A operator. Out of the approximately 20,000 franchise applications that Chick-fil-A receives every year, roughly 0.4% receive approval from the fast-food company’s corporate office. Chick-fil-A only added 120 new locations in 2021, meaning very few applicants ever receive franchise approval from Chick-fil-A.
Will Chick-fil-A Ever Have an IPO?
Chick-fil-A will not likely have an IPO any time soon, if ever. The company remains privately owned, and shares are not traded on any stock exchange. An IPO would likely mean changes to the company that would go against the values held by the current owners, such as closing on Sundays, which is probably why the company’s founder never wanted to sell public shares.
The family-owned company would have to be sold for it to be able to have an IPO. Otherwise, Chick-fil-A’s corporate office is bound by a contractual agreement instructing its executives not to take the fast-food company public.
For now, investors looking to invest in fast-food stocks will have to put their money elsewhere, perhaps in McDonald’s Corp (MCD) or Wendys Co (WEN), which are both publicly traded companies.
Chick-fil-A’s revenue may have increased by $1.5 billion last year, but investors will not see a dime of it. For the foreseeable future, you can’t buy Chick-fil-A stock. Investors may never be able to buy it if the company continues its private-ownership success. Anyone who wants a piece of Chick-fil-A will have to get in line and hope the corporate office approves them for franchise ownership. Based on the stiff competition involved in becoming a franchisee, not too many will be able to turn a profit on Chick-fil-A that way either.
Information is accurate as of May 11, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.