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Never on Sunday: Where Do Chick-fil-A Fans Flock When Chain Isn’t Open?

When customers are out and about on a Sunday and their go-to restaurant is closed - their 2nd choice depends on where they live.

Photo Courtesy of Loopnet.

Chick-fil-A has kept its doors closed on Sundays since its founding in 1946, when late founder S. Truett Cathy, a devout Southern Baptist, aimed to honor the day’s religious significance in the Christian faith.

It remains the only major chain to take that day off and has become the nation’s third-largest restaurant chain – behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Chick-fil-A racked up $10.5 billion at more than 2,300 locations last year, up 16.7% from the prior year, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

Consultants at Buxton found that some full-service restaurant chains benefit when hungry Chick-fil-A customers have to search for somewhere else to eat on Sundays.

Where they go varies by where they live, and the findings could hold lessons for other restaurants scouting locations.

Full-service restaurants including Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and IHOP are among Chick-fil-A fan favorites for a Sunday meal in some of the nation’s largest states.

Fast-food chains including Whataburger, Culver’s and McDonald’s cornered the market in other states.

In its home base of Tennessee and 18 other Eastern and Southeastern states, Cracker Barrel was the top Sunday choice of regular Chick-fil-A customers.

Denny’s was the top choice in California and Nevada while landing in the top three in seven other states.

IHOP took the top spot in Arizona and five other states.

Waffle House made the list in 10 states, though it had no first-place finishes.

In some states, the winners were regional favorites. Whataburger in Texas, Culver’s in Wisconsin and Iowa, Elmer’s in Oregon. McDonald’s in Utah and Minnesota, while Pizza Hut took the top spot in Massachusetts.

Using global positioning pings from mobile devices of the chain’s regular customers over two years, Buxton consultants found foot-traffic winners on Sundays were mostly full-service casual eateries rather than fast-food competitors.

During the week when time pressures exist consumers will choose fast food for breakfast and lunch. On the weekend, consumers like to relax, take more time and patronize full-service restaurants where they can enjoy a more relaxed experience.

The Buxton results could prove useful for retail store and restaurant operators to find out how their own customer base overlaps with those of other popular national chains with a proven track record.

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