Chick-fil-A steals KFC's chicken crown

The smaller chain has fewer restaurants than the Colonel and is closed on Sundays, but it's now ringing up more sales.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 31, 2014 11:55AM
A Chick-fil-A restaurant in Chicago, Ill., on January 12, 2013 (© Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)By Venessa Wong, Businessweek

The days when fried chicken was synonymous with a certain white-haired southern gentleman are over, at least in the U.S. A new champion has claimed KFC's long-held chicken crown: Chick-fil-A

The change atop the leaderboard appears undisputed: Yum Brands (YUM), which owns KFC and has for years prided itself as "the leader in the U.S. chicken [quick-service restaurant] segment," removed that very phrase from the company's most recent annual report.

Anyone in the northern half of the U.S. is likely scratching her head and wondering why she hasn't seen Chick-fil-A outlets opening in the neighborhood. Last year Chick-fil-A only had about 1,775 U.S. stores to KFC's 4,491, and most are in the South. 

Yet in dollar terms the Colonel is coming up short even with that much larger footprint: Chick-fil-A's 2013 sales passed $5 billion, while all of KFC's U.S. restaurants rang up about $4.22 billion, according to Technomic. And that's with zero dollars coming in to Chick-fil-A on Sundays, when every restaurant is closed.

What Chick-fil-A lacks in store count, it makes up for in traffic. Each restaurant made about $3.2 million in 2013, more than three times as much as the average KFC at $938,000. 

Average sales at KFC restaurants have remained largely unchanged over the past decade, while they have climbed steadily at Chick-fil-A. Same-store sales climbed by more than 3.6 percent at Chick-fil-A last year; KFC's fell by 2 percent.

KFC hit its U.S. peak by store count around 2004, when it had more than 5,500 restaurants -- over four times the number of Chick-fil-A locations -- and claimed 46 percent of the fast-food chicken market. But over the past decade the gap between the two narrowed as KFC closed stores and Chick-fil-A added more. Now, KFC's storefront advantage is just 2.5 times more than its rival, and Chick-fil-A plans to chip away with more than 100 new locations opening this year. (A representative for KFC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Darren Tristano, an executive vice president at consultancy Technomic, called Chick-fil-A one of the most successful fast-food chains. He cited the sizable breakfast business, an average check slightly higher than competitors', and a menu that differentiates it from the big burger chains.

And fast-food chicken fans outside the South may not be puzzled by Chick-fil-A's hegemony for long. A spokesman mentioned plans for locations in the "northern, Midwest, and western states," where the company is now focusing its growth plans.

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Tags: YUM
Mar 31, 2014 1:35PM

Go to chick Fil-fil-a, employee opens door, everybody smiles, tray handed to me or delivered to my clean table with food perfectly arranged, somebody comes by to make sure everything is OK.  Better than most sit down restaurants.  Food is awesome


Go to KFC, slip on the greasy floor, interrupt the cashier from their conversation with the fry cook, food comes in a bag because they did not care that I said I was going to eat in, find a dirty table and wipe the crumbs off with my napkin.  Food is cold and greasy because it has been sitting around for 3 hours.

Mar 31, 2014 1:33PM
Wow, and they are not even open on Sunday's.
Mar 31, 2014 12:38PM
If you doubt this, go to any Chick Fil-A between 11am and 1:30pm on any given day - they are packed.  Good food, reasonable prices and excellent service.  Meanwhile, the KFC down the road does half the business or less...
Mar 31, 2014 1:45PM
Chick-fil-A must have a Great employee training program, one that All fast food and retail in general should take a long hard look at. Their food is great and customer service is the BEST. This is another example of following your principles and taking a stand for what you believe in.
Mar 31, 2014 1:37PM
Has anyone been to KFC lately? Rude people lousy service and the list goes on, How about the fact that they say meal deal yet it is extra for a drink and they dont say so until you ask why it is that much. The colonel is rolling in his grave to se his idea go to hell
Mar 31, 2014 1:38PM

KFC has priced themselves out of the market.  Who can afford to eat there anymore?  The meal is not worth the deal colonel.   however, i still like your chicken, just don't wanna pay your outrageous prices. 

Mar 31, 2014 1:36PM
No wonder KFC is getting their collective asses kicked, they are way too expensive. They want $20.00 for 8 pieces of chicken and two "large" sides (large means 1 1/2 cups of slaw, potatoes etc).  With CFA whipping their butt, I think KFC will get the hint and start selling their food for much less. I can tell you this, unless they really cut thier prices (KFC), I won't go back.
Mar 31, 2014 1:40PM
They are the CLEANEST restaurants in chicken. These places are taken very good care of.  I'd eat there before any other chicken shop.
Mar 31, 2014 1:33PM

The Local KFC close to my house finally closed its doors about 3 months ago, and based on the ONE time I went there, about 6 months ago, I can see why.

My wife and I showed up at 4:00PM Saturday in the drive through.  We wanted Chicken Sandwiches, but they didn't have any chicken breast filets ready.  It was going to be a 6-7 minute wait.  So, we then asked for a bucket of chicken with mostly white meat.  They didn't have that, either.  That was a 22 minute wait.  So, we finally asked what they DID have..  Wings and Backs.  That was it. 

We left buying nothing.  We predicted that restaurant would close if that is the way they operate.  And sure enough, they did.

Mar 31, 2014 12:36PM
Well when God is on your side... I like both. Depends on what I'm in the mood for at the time.
Mar 31, 2014 1:31PM

Chik fil A has less nasty food.  And they are going to use chickens w/out hormones & drugs.

many KFC's are dirty & orders usually wrong.

Mar 31, 2014 1:42PM
KFC is too overpriced- that could be contributing to their lack of growth! It is very expensive to try to feed a family of four KFC on occasion. I just buy deli chicken at the grocery store these days.
Mar 31, 2014 1:54PM
Chick Fil-A is a great company with good fresh food, a team of employees who really care about what they are doing for and with their customers.

KFC on the other hand has gone DOWN HILL in numerous ways, their chicken tastes like corporate chicken, and if the Colonel were alive today he would be looking for a tree to hold a lynching on. KFC should be ashamed of themselves taking a decades old winner and ruining it to the point we won't even step into one of their restaurants. Bring the Colonel's original idea back to the table and get off trying to sell the public on your so called "Rubber Grilled Chicken", go back to the basics of good food, good service, good employees and quit trying to sell fish, chicken and tacos over the same counter.

Change your ways or lose more of the market share you have left.

Mar 31, 2014 1:49PM
KFC lost their minds with the pricing of a piece of chicken!!
Mar 31, 2014 1:41PM
KFC has been going down hill for years. The last few times we went to KFC the foods been disgusting, have completely quit going.
Mar 31, 2014 1:46PM
I had lunch at KFC just recently and I'm a adult male and their "meal" was just a few tiny pieces of chicken and a small sample of mashed potatos, it did not fill me up at all I had to go eat someplace else in order to get a proper lunch. Very small portions and expensive and I'll never go to KFC ever again. Church's and Popeye's is way more economical and has very good sized portions.
Mar 31, 2014 1:49PM

My wife and I ate at a KFC about 20 years and swore we would never go back, it was HORRIBLE.. About 5 years ago I decided that they must be making better chicken now so I stopped and took some home. My wife and I tried it and it was HORRIBLE. Never again will I darken their door.


I love Chick Fil-A.

Mar 31, 2014 1:39PM

Its all fast food crap.  Problem with KFC is they can never settle on a good menu.  Everytime i try KFC for lunch, the items are different and so is pricing.



Mar 31, 2014 1:58PM
It is called God takes care of those who serve Him! The Cathy family openly proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ and their faith. The close on Sunday to observe the Lords day. In return, God blesses this family and their business!
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