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Chick-fil-a Plans UK Expansion After Previously Facing Backlash From LGBTQ Rights Activists

Chick-fil-A announced last week its plans to launch in the United Kingdom in 2025, marking the company’s first permanent expansion outside of North America. The company also outlined plans earlier this year to open restaurants in Europe and Asia by 2026 and five international locations by 2030, according to a news release. Their plan is to open five locally-owned and operated restaurants in the UK in the first two years, and expand in the U.K. from there, the company said. The company currently has more than 2,800 locations across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.

According to the company, each restaurant will create approximately 80-120 new jobs, and all chicken will be sourced form the U.K. and Ireland, as well as 100% free range eggs and welfare certification. “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 the news release. “From our earliest days, we’ve worked to positively influence the places we call home and this will be the same for our stores in the UK,” said Joanna Symonds, Head of UK Operations, in the release.

Chick-fil-A’s history in the UK

The company opened a temporary store in a mall in Reading, England, in 2019 and was quickly met with protests from local LGBTQ+ rights activists. The Oracle, the shopping mall where the restaurant leased space, did not allow Chick-fil-A to extend its lease beyond the “six-month pilot period,” according to the BBC.

The BBC reported in 2019 that campaigners from local LGBTQ advocacy group Reading Pride called for people to boycott the chain due to its million-dollar donations to organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home and the US Salvation Army.

According to Reading Pride at the time, all three organizations had a reputation of being hostile to LGBTQ rights. “We are staunchly opposed to Chick-fil-A setting up shop in the UK and certainly in Reading,” the group said in a 2019 statement on Twitter. “The chain’s ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the UK as we are a progressive country” that has legalized same-sex marriage and “continues to strive toward equality.”

Later in 2019, Chick-fil-A altered its approach to charitable donations following criticism from LGBTQ rights groups. The company said in a statement it will “deepen its giving to a smaller number of organizations” by focusing on education, homelessness and hunger. “Additionally, the Foundation will no longer make multiyear commitments and will reassess its philanthropic partnerships annually to allow maximum impact,” the company said in the statement. “These partners could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities.”