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Chick-fil-A Gets Cocky about Its Kitchens

Transparency is PR gold. Transparency requires courage, honesty and humility. The public loves transparency because the public is comprised of adults who understand the inevitability of bad news and the value taking responsibility. Without transparency nothing moves forward.

So adding transparency to the customer experience is a wise PR strategy for Chick-fil-A particularly after a recent spate of controversy over the gay marriage issue. As an overture to the public, Chick-fil-A is offering customers instant behind-the-counter tours of any of its 1,700 franchises at any time. So if you have run out of ideas about where to take your next date, you’re in luck. Chick-fil-A has the utmost confidence you’ll be impressed by its dedication to clean facilities and healthy ingredients.

This PR stunt is designed to have people like us write blog posts and create buzz drawing attention to Chick-fil-A’s newest menu items, the Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap and updated salads. (So done and done. Well played Chick-fil-A.) However, Chick-fil-A may be overestimating the public’s interest in witnessing how their food is made. This isn’t foie gras. It’s fast food. Most people wouldn’t choose to work in a Chick-fil-A kitchen for money let alone spend their free time in one. Seriously, Chick-fil-A?

The public understands that our culture is changing and fast food chains need to keep up with evolving palates. Chick-fil-A has been on the winning arc of that trend, whereas burger brands such as McDonald’s and Burger King have struggled to adjust. Nevertheless, just as the public doesn’t want to see chickens slaughtered on premise as a guarantee of freshness, we really don’t want to see chicken sandwiches made either.

The idea is sound in theory. But how many times have you been in a Subway and witnessed your Italian BMT being made? The promotional images don’t exactly match the counter’s haphazard reality with the scattered shreds of lettuce, the black olive pieces in the pickle bin, the ranch dressing smears or the sandwich maker who wipes his nose? Yet the public loves Subway.

But Chick-fil-A isn’t Subway. Being allowed behind the counter is a different experience, particularly when you can talk with the managers and ask them how they feel about gay marriage. That’s real transparency.

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