This Franchise Chatter guide on the Chick-fil-A menu was written by Sherman Morrison.
Chick-fil-A has steadily risen through the ranks to become a significant force in the chicken franchise segment. From the very first restaurant that founder S. Truett Cathy opened in 1946 (the Dwarf Grill), he was on the lookout for that special innovation that could set his efforts apart. That innovation came in 1961 when he found a pressure cooker that could have chicken ready in about as much time as it took to make a hamburger. Cathy made history by coming up with the first takeaway chicken sandwich, and opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1967 in a suburb of Atlanta, GA.
With more than 1,800 locations, this private, family-owned and operated chain has annual sales that beat out Kentucky Fried Chicken, even though Chick-fil-A has less than half the stores. With Cathy’s passing in September of this year, his sons have taken over the business, with Dan T. Cathy as the chairman, president and CEO, and Donald M. (a.k.a. Bubba) Cathy as executive vice president.
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The chain has clearly hit its stride around cooking techniques and business models. But what about the Chick-fil-A menu? Do people love it? Hate it? Tolerate it? While Chick-fil-A menu prices vary from location to location, it is the quality of the food that will be the focus here. We’ll temporarily ignore the cows that beckon us to “Eat mor chikin” (after all, they have a vested interest in making that happen) and see if the Chick-fil-A menu justifies their urgings.
The Chick-fil-A menu is actually quite extensive, so this article is only going to focus on three sections of the menu – the Classics, Breakfast and Beverages.
Chicken is what this chain does best, and its signature offering nailed Consumer Reports’ No. 1 ranking as Best Chicken Sandwich. Here’s the run-down on Chick-fil-A’s classic selections:
Chicken Sandwich. A boneless breast of seasoned chicken, hand-breaded and pressure cooked in 100% refined peanut oil, served on a toasted, buttered bun (all Chick-fil-A sandwiches can also be served on a multigrain bun) with dill pickle chips. This is not a fancy sandwich, but it gets the job done in spite of its simplicity. It’s not loaded up with all kinds of extras, which some chains have to do to cover up the fact that the main ingredient in the sandwich, the meat, isn’t the greatest quality. The Chick-fil-A regular chicken sandwich stands well on its own because of the quality of the chicken.
Chick-fil-A also gets points for not making their patties into some kind of completely homogenous, perfectly round shape. Each one is unique and not uniform, which somehow just gives it a higher level of authenticity than you find at other places. It’s definitely not some kind of “manufactured” chicken product.
Chicken Deluxe Sandwich. Same as above but with the addition of green leaf lettuce, tomato and American cheese. This version is where you can get the extras if you want them, and the ratio of meat to other items is just right so that the quality of the chicken shines through.
Your cheese choices include American, Pepper Jack and Provolone. Each one works well, although the Pepper Jack does give it a nice zing that the other cheeses can’t offer. You can also jazz up any of these sandwiches with one of the chain’s dipping sauces free of charge, which is a real bonus.
Spicy Chicken Sandwich. The variation here is the addition of a spicy blend of peppers. Be forewarned that unlike most fast food chains, spicy to Chick-fil-A really does mean spicy, and you’re going to get a nice burn here if you’re into that sort of thing. It is not for the faint of heart!
Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich. In addition to the spicy blend of peppers, this variation adds in green leaf lettuce, tomato and Pepper Jack cheese. Chick-fil-A takes the differentiation between its regular and spicy chicken very seriously. In fact, it prepares each in separate fryers to eliminate any potential crossover.
The Pepper Jack cheese is properly melted directly onto the meat, as opposed to slapped on as an afterthought over the other toppings as so often happens at other chains.
Nuggets. Bite-sized pieces of all-breast meat seasoned chicken, hand-breaded and pressure-cooked in 100% refined peanut oil. Chick-fil-A has outdone itself here with its version of nuggets. Yes, just about every chain has some kind of chicken nugget offering, but they all pale in comparison to Chick-fil-A’s. Other chain nuggets tend to be dry and over-breaded, but these are truly tender, juicy and full of flavor.
Available in 8-count or 12-count entrees with choice of dipping sauce. They also come in 4 and 6-count in Kids Meal with choice of Waffle Potato Fries, applesauce or fruit cup and choice of milk, apple juice or freshly squeezed lemonade. For larger gatherings, nuggets can be ordered in trays, where a small serves 8, a medium serves 15 and a large serves 25.
Those dipping sauces I mentioned earlier, by the way, include Barbecue Sauce, Buffalo Sauce, Buttermilk Ranch Sauce, Chick-fil-A® Sauce, Honey Mustard Sauce, Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce and Polynesian Sauce.
Chick-n-Strips. These are larger pieces of chicken breast marinated in seasonings, hand-breaded and pressure cooked in 100% refined peanut oil. This is essentially the same chicken as the patty in their sandwiches, just in a slightly different form. The good news is that this means it’s delicious, with just the right amount of seasonings without being too salty.
Available in 3 or 4-count entrees with choice of dipping sauce. They also come in 1 and 2-count in Kids Meal. These can also be ordered in trays, where a small serves 8, a medium serves 15 and a large serves 25.
Grilled Chicken Sandwich. A boneless breast of chicken, marinated with a blend of seasonings and grilled, served on a toasted multigrain bun with green leaf lettuce and tomato. Served with Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce.
Chick-fil-A rolled out its new grilled chicken recipe in April, 2014 (at a cost of $50 million). The “back-yard grilled taste,” as they describe it, is achieved with sea salt, lemon and other herbs, along with a proprietary grill that can cook the meat fast enough. No fake grill lines on this meat! And it’s nice to have the option to skip the breaded effect. And it’s healthier for that as well.
Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich. A boneless breast of chicken, marinated with a blend of seasonings and grilled, served on a toasted multigrain bun with Colby-Jack cheese, smoked applewood bacon, green leaf lettuce and tomato. Served with Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce.
The new grilled recipe translates very nicely into this sandwich. At far too many chains, the factory-made patties have some kind of sodium filler injected into them that makes them plumper, and which also imparts a not-so-good overtone to the flavor. With this Chick-fil-A sandwich, the marinade and grilling result in a wave of flavor that’s hard to compare to anything else – it’s that good. Succulent is the only way to describe this chicken’s juiciness.
Chicken Salad Sandwich. Freshly made at each restaurant, the salad includes chicken breast, chopped eggs, celery, sweet pickle relish and mayonnaise served chilled with green leaf lettuce on toasted Wheatberry bread.
What’s interesting here is that you basically won’t find a chicken salad sandwich at any other fast food chain (although there’s rumor that sometimes Arby’s offers one). And it’s delicious to boot. The relish and mayonnaise deliver just what you want in a chicken salad, and although the chicken chunks could stand to be slightly larger, this sandwich doesn’t disappoint.
You can also get these sandwiches in trays, where the small has 18 sandwich thirds, the medium has 36 and the large has 48.
Grilled Nuggets. Bite-sized pieces of boneless breast of chicken, marinated with a blend of seasonings and grilled. Although grilled nuggets were available for kids back in 2012, this is a new all-ages offering that makes use of the chain’s new grilled chicken recipe that is a real standout among fast food chains.
Available in 8-count or 12-count entrees with your choice of dipping sauce. Also available in 4-count or 6-count Kids Meal servings.
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Chick-fil-A has been working hard to establish a firm presence in the breakfast segment, recently adding five new breakfast options, most of which are low-calorie – an important concession to an increasingly health-conscious public. Here’s the full run-down of what’s for breakfast on the Chick-fil-A menu:
Chicken Biscuit. A breakfast portion of boneless seasoned breast of chicken, hand-breaded, pressure-cooked in 100% refined peanut oil and served on a buttermilk biscuit baked fresh at each Restaurant. Everything that’s good about Chick-fil-A chicken comes through loud and clear in the breakfast offerings. And their buttermilk biscuits really are good – hearty and wholesome in that down-on-the-farm, real butter kind of way.
Biscuit. The buttermilk biscuit is baked fresh at each Restaurant. Served lightly buttered or plain. What’s so good about these biscuits is that the chain has managed to get the right balance of soft and flaky that can be hard to achieve in a biscuit.
Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit. Strips of smoked applewood bacon along with a folded egg and cheese served on a freshly baked buttermilk biscuit. Bacon, as they say, makes everything better, and that’s definitely the case with Chick-fil-A bacon, which is nearly always done to just the right level of crispness without being too crunchy.
Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit. This is a pork sausage patty along with a folded egg and cheese served on a freshly baked buttermilk biscuit. Cows may be off the menu at Chick-fil-A, but pigs don’t fare as well, ending up more in the same boat as the chickens. The Chick-fil-A sausage is just as good as their bacon, with a nearly-perfect blend of spices that make it work very well with the biscuit, egg and cheese.
Spicy Chicken Biscuit. A breakfast portion of boneless breast of chicken, seasoned with a spicy blend of peppers, hand-breaded, pressure cooked in 100% peanut oil and served on a buttermilk biscuit baked fresh at each Restaurant. Say what you will, but I just can’t handle spicy at breakfast, so this just doesn’t work well as a breakfast offering for me. But if you’re into that, Chick-fil-A’s spicy chicken is hard to beat at any time of day.
Chick-n-Minis. Bite-sized Chick-fil-A Nuggets nestled in warm, mini yeast rolls that are lightly coated with honey butter spread (3 or 4-count). These can be ordered in larger tray quantities where a small contains 20 Chick-n-Minis and a large has 40 Chick-n-Minis.
Chicken, Egg & Cheese Bagel. A breakfast portion of boneless breast of chicken, served between a slice of American cheese and a folded egg on a toasted, sunflower multigrain bagel. Also available with a breakfast portion of the spicy chicken breast.
Cinnamon Cluster. This cinnamon pastry is made into easy-to-eat mini clusters, served warm and topped with creamy vanilla icing. Trays of these can also be ordered where a small has 6 clusters, a medium has 12 and a large has 16.
Chicken (or Sausage) Breakfast Burrito. Chunks of Chick-fil-A chicken mixed with scrambled eggs, fire-roasted onions and peppers and a subtle blend of Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, all wrapped in a soft flour tortilla and served with spicy salsa. Also available with the spicy chicken or pork sausage.
Have you ever had a breakfast wrap that suffered from a lot of watery runoff? It’s not very appealing, and you’ll be pleased to know that Chick-fil-A’s breakfast burritos do not suffer that unfortunate fate. The chain has really figured this one out.
Multigrain Oatmeal. This multigrain, steel-cut oatmeal is first slow-cooked in kettles the old-fashioned way. It has flax, whole wheat and buckwheat in it as well. Toppings include cinnamon and brown sugar, roasted mixed nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) and dried fruit blend (cranberries, blueberries, golden raisins, cherries).
Make no mistake, you will not find a better oatmeal offering at any fast-food or quick-serve chain. This is the real deal – not some instant out-of-the-packet-and-just-add-boiling-water type of thing. This Chick-fil-A offering has flavor, even without any toppings! If you’re looking for a healthier option for a fast-food breakfast, look no further than the Chick-fil-A oatmeal. It’s simply outstanding.
Yogurt Parfait. The Yogurt Parfait features creamy vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries and topped with your choice of Harvest Nut Granola or chocolate cookie crumbs. Whereas the oatmeal was a knockout, the Chick-fil-A yogurt parfait is bound to disappoint some. The freshness and quality are better than you’re going to get with one at McDonald’s, but the serving size is very small and the price a lot more, which will be a deal-breaker for many.
Sausage (or Chicken or Bacon) Platter. This meal features scrambled eggs, a slice of pork sausage, a freshly baked buttermilk biscuit and white pepper gravy with sausage. Also available with a breakfast portion of boneless breast of chicken, spicy chicken breast or three strips of smoked applewood bacon instead of sausage.
Hash Browns. These crispy potato medallions are cooked in canola oil, which many are beginning to realize isn’t as healthy as previously thought, so it will be interesting to see if Chick-fil-A sticks with it over time.
As any good southern chain would, the Chick-fil-A menu offers classic sweet tea as well as unsweetened tea. In addition to lemonade and Coke products (including Dasani water), the most notable and surprisingly progressive beverage offering is the chain’s coffee. Chick-fil-A is the first quick-serve chain to offer a specialty-grade coffee on its menu. And it directly supports Central American family farms that are part of the THRIVE Farm Network, allowing those farmers to make roughly 10 times as much as they would make in a more traditional business model by eliminating several layers from the supply chain.
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Keep in mind that there are still three other sections to the extensive Chick-fil-A menu (salads and wraps, sides and desserts), but this article has gone on long enough already. When you look at the sheer number of breakfast options, it’s a wonder more people aren’t talking about the Chick-fil-A menu as the go-to breakfast option for everyone. There are a lot of really pleasant surprises to be discovered at Chick-fil-A, and the chain’s recent growth indicates that people really are responding to the call of the cows to “Eat mor chikin.”