New York has taken to Chick-fil-A. One of the Manhattan locations estimates that it sells a sandwich every six seconds, and the company has announced plans to open as many as a dozen more storefronts in the city. And yet the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism. Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet. Its stores close on Sundays. Its C.E.O., Dan Cathy, has been accused of bigotry for using the company's charitable wing to fund anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same-sex marriage. “We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation,” he once said, “when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ ” The company has since reaffirmed its intention to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect,” but it has quietly continued to donate to anti-L.G.B.T. groups. .... Chick-fil-A’s success here is a marketing coup. Its expansion raises questions about what we expect from our fast food, and to what extent a corporation can join a community.
This emphasis on community ... suggests an ulterior motive. The restaurant’s corporate purpose still begins with the words “to glorify God,” and that proselytism thrums below the surface of the Fulton Street restaurant, which has the ersatz homespun ambiance of a megachurch. David Farmer, Chick-fil-A’s vice-president of restaurant experience, told BuzzFeed that he strives for a “pit crew efficiency, but where you feel like you just got hugged in the process.” That contradiction, industrial but claustral, is at the heart of the new restaurant—and of Chick-fil-A’s entire brand.
It’s worth asking why Americans fell in love with an ad in which one farm animal begs us to kill another in its place. Most restaurants take pains to distance themselves from the brutalities of the slaughterhouse; Chick-fil-A invites us to go along with the Cows’ Schadenfreude. In the portraits at the Fulton Street restaurant, the Cows visit various New York landmarks. They’re in Central Park, where “eat mor chikin” has been mowed into the lawn. They’re glimpsing the Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo, where they’ve modified a stop sign: “stop eatin burgrz.” They’re on the subway, where the advertisements . . . you get the picture. The joke is that the Cows are out of place in New York—a winking acknowledgment that Chick-fil-A, too, does not quite belong here.
Its arrival in the city augurs worse than a load of manure on the F train. According to a report by the Center for an Urban Future, the number of chain restaurants in New York has doubled since 2008, crowding out diners and greasy spoons for whom the rent is too dear. Chick-fil-A, meanwhile, is set to become the third-largest fast-food chain in the nation, behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks. No matter how well such restaurants integrate into the “community,” they still venerate a deadening uniformity. Homogeneous food is comfort food, and chains know that their primary appeal is palliative. With ad after ad, and storefront after storefront, they have the resources to show that they’ve always been here for us, and recent trends indicate that we prefer them over anything new or untested.
Defenders of Chick-fil-A point out that the company donates thousands of pounds of food to New York Common Pantry, and that its expansion creates jobs. The more fatalistic will add that hypocrisy is baked, or fried, into every consumer experience—that unbridled corporate power makes it impossible to bring your wallet in line with your morals. Still, there’s something especially distasteful about Chick-fil-A, which has sought to portray itself as better than other fast food: cleaner, gentler, and more ethical, with its poultry slightly healthier than the mystery meat of burgers. Its politics, its décor, and its commercial-evangelical messaging are inflected with this suburban piety. A representative of the Richards Group once told Adweek, “People root for the low-status character, and the Cows are low status. They’re the underdog.” That may have been true in 1995, when Chick-fil-A was a lowly mall brand struggling to find its footing against the burger juggernauts. Today, the Cows’ “guerrilla insurgency” is more of a carpet bombing. New Yorkers are under no obligation to repeat what they say. Enough, we can tell them. NO MOR.
As Glenn Reynolds has said of similar smug, self-congratulatory audiences. "You want more Trump? This is how you get more Trump."
RELATED: NYC trainload of human waste shipped to Alabama, where it its, rotting and befouling a small town. Southern America sends NYC tasty chicken and in return NYC smugs showers it with shit. That's exactly how New Yorker readers like things, but I wonder how much longer the rest of America will accommodate them?