Madison is poised to get its first Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant, a chain influenced by its founder’s Southern Baptist beliefs and perhaps best known for its public stand against gay marriage a few years ago.
The Atlanta company with more than 1,700 locations in 37 states is seeking city approval to open in the West Towne Mall parking lot at 423 S. Gammon Road.
The project before the city Urban Design Commission Wednesday involves razing an existing one-story Wells Fargo bank and constructing a 5,012 square foot building with two drive-through service lanes on the 1.2 acre site.
The proposed restaurant is described as a “tall one-story structure” clad in brick in all sides.
“Staff believes the structure is an attractive fast-food restaurant,” says a report from city planner Kevin Firchow.
Chick-fil-A has only one other Wisconsin location in Racine. But it has been on a major expansion binge with 27 new locations opened so far in 2014, including stores in Rockford and Elmhurst, Illinois.
The restaurant is known for its all-breast meat chicken sandwich. Advertisements feature Holstein cows urging diners to "Eat Mor Chikin," a dig at hamburger-centered fast food competitors.
In 2012, sales of the privately owned chain increased 14 percent to over $4.6 billion.
Chick-fil-A was founded in 1946 by Truett Cathy who opened his first restaurant, Dwarf Grill, in Hapeville, Georgia. In the 1960s, Cathy started emphasizing restaurants in suburban shopping malls and has continued with that concept.
But the company hasn’t operated without controversy. Chief operating officer Dan Cathy's statements opposing same-sex marriage became the subject of controversy in 2012, sparking boycotts across the nation by gay rights advocates as well as counter protests.
Cathy’s comments followed media reports that Chick-fil-A's charitable wing, the WinShape Foundation, had made millions in donations to political organizations opposing LGBT rights.
Chick-fil-A has since released a statement saying "Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” Its tax filings have shown it has stopped funding all but one organization that was previously criticized.