Hoffman's Houston
playing chicken with the big boys

Ken Hoffman serves up surprising news about Chick-fil-A's power move

Ken Hoffman serves up surprising news about Chick-fil-A's power move

Chick fil A exterior
Chick-fil-A is grilling the competition.  Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Even after all these years, all those double bacon cheeseburgers and loaded fries (I'm not complaining), I'm surprised by what I hear out of the Drive-Thru Land. This time, it's the wild success that Chick-fil-A is delivering on the bottom line. Indeed, there's gold in them-thar golden waffle fries and chicken sandwiches.

Chick-fil-A is poised to become America's No. 3 moneymaking food chain in 2019, passing Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell, and a few other long-running eateries. Here's what makes Chick-fil-A's feat so off-the-charts remarkable.

Subway has 26,982 restaurants in the U.S. Burger King has 7,226 stores. Taco Bell has 6,446 locations.

Chick-fil-A barely has 2,300 restaurants. That's practically a mom 'n' pop shop compared to the big boys. Only McDonald's with 14,036 restaurants and Starbucks with 13,930 places are expected to haul in more money than Chick-fil-A this year.

Chick-fil-A doesn't just back up the Brink's truck corporate-wide, each store is doing big, big business. On average, individual Chick-fil-A restaurants earn about $5 million annually. That's more than an individual McDonald's, Starbucks, and Subway combined.

Imagine if Chick-fil-A were open on Sunday? Or allowed its restaurants to stay open 24 hours a day like many of its competitors? Chick-fil-A closes on Sunday so its employees can attend their place of worship, hang out with family and friends, or do whatever they wish. Just don't bother coming to work.

Some Chick-fil-A trivia 
Last year, the fast food industry, as a whole, nudged up about 1 percent in sales. Chick-fil-A's cash registers melted from the heat of opening and closing, leaping 15 percent in sales. Did you know that three of Chick-fil-A's top 10 restaurants are in Houston, and we're one of Chick-fil-A's busiest markets systemwide? That explains the traffic jams in Chick-fil-A's drive-through at 3 pm, when other fast food joints are empty parking lots. 

The U.S. Mint just called ... it wants to know how Chick-fil-A prints money so fast. 

What's more popular than the chicken sandwich?
Here's more I didn't know about Chick-fil-A: its signature Original Chicken Sandwich, the one with two dill pickle slices on a toasted, buttered bun, is not the most popular item on the menu. That honor goes to waffle fries. It figures, fries go with everything. But the Original Chicken Sandwich isn't even the most-ordered chicken item. Tops is Chicken Nuggets — kids, I guess.

My go-to order to-go, the Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich (with cheese, lettuce and tomato) didn't even crack Top 10. Neither did my breakfast pick, the Chicken, Egg and Cheese Bagel.

I usually stick to the national chains for my weekly Drive-thru Gourmet reviews, but I cut some slack for Chick-fil-A, which feeds only 47 states. Sorry, Alaska, Hawaii, and Vermont, no chicken sandwiches for you.

Obviously, the restaurants' name, Chick-fil-A is a  play on "chicken filet," a boneless slab of marinated white meat chicken, but why is the "A" capitalized? It's because when owner Truett Cathy opened the first Chick-fil-A near Atlanta in 1967, he bumped up the "A" to stress the food's top quality.

They're not clowning around
McDonald’s is bringing home the bacon starting January 30. Ronald will introduce Cheesy Bacon Fries (MSRP $3.15 to $3.45)also a Big Mac with Bacon ($5.19 to $5.39) and Quarter Pounder with Bacon ($5.29 - $5.49).

Last week, there was a fast food discovery from the math department. The takeaway was, you get more pizza by ordering one 18-inch pie instead of two 12-inch pizzas. The 18-inch pizza has 254.5 square inches, while two 12-inch pizzas total 226.2 square inches. My answer to that: area has nothing to do with anything. Weight is everything when it comes to pizza. Also, the geometric formula "pi r squared" is wrong. It should be "pie r round." (Thank you Highlights Magazine.)

Bang for your buck
Didn't see this coming: dollar stores now sell more food in America than the Whole Foods chain. Dollar Tree and Dollar General totaled nearly $24 billion in grocery sales in 2018 while Whole Foods did roughly $15 billion. That says a whole lot about Whole Foods and what's really happening in America's economy.

Strange sandwiches
Fuddruckers is bringing back its super-sized 2/3-pound burger patty. Jack in the Box continues to sell its Breakfast Jack sandwich for a buck. The Huxtaburger chain Down Under has created a special sandwich to celebrate the Aussie Open tennis event. It's got a fried chicken patty, Asian slaw with sesame dressing, finger lime, and turmeric mayo ... on a bright blue bun. This sounds wretched.

Tennis, anyone?
Despite this troubling sammie, I'm riding with Roger Federer to win a third consecutive men's title. Serena Williams may be the overwhelming betting favorite in the women's side, but my money is on the field — anybody else. I'm thinking that Serena is done winning majors. She'll just have to settle for being the greatest ever. 

Keeping with tennis, Mardy Fish is the new captain of America's Davis Cup team. Fish is the right choice. He's a real leader of men. Several years ago, Mardy Fish was my doubles partner at River Oaks Country Club when we played John McEnroe and the club champion. That was the match where McEnroe drilled me with a blistering forehand that still gives me the willies at night. During the changeover, I asked Fish, "Doesn't McEnroe realize that I'm just a newspaper guy, not a tennis pro?" Fish told me to "just ignore it." Thanks, captain.