Monday, August 29, 2011

Marriage of Chick-fil-A and Free Breakfast Promotion Under Attack

SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Chick-fil-A, a fast food restaurant chain specializing in chicken entrées and Christian values, is offering a free breakfast entrée between September 6 and September 10 for those who qualify by registering with the company’s online reservation system. Unfortunately, the system is leaving some with more reservations than it is generating. Complaints have also arisen about the “limited” number of spaces as well as the geographic restrictions. While communities such as Bennington Vale offer more Chick-fil-A locations than they do Starbucks, cities such as San Francisco have none at all, requiring devout patrons to travel as far as Fairfield, Calif. -- a pilgrimage of nearly 50 miles.

A Matter of Simple, Moral Economics
Walker Hollywell, professor of Theological Economics at San Narciso College and a specialist in the food service industry, said, “One can’t legitimately complain about the number and regional placements of Chick-fil-A’s locations. They put up stores where they can move the most product. That equates to communities who are moved by the spirit of chicken sandwiches and the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, Chick-fil-A had tried to establish a presence in the Bay Area some years ago, but the risks were too high. So those restaurants had to be shuttered.”

According to Hollywell’s analysis, franchise owners in the Castro District relocated to Fairfield shortly after setting up shop, amid fears of class action suits from local residents.

“Based on the demographic mix and history of the area,” Hollywell said, “the owners worried that they were exposing themselves to lawsuits from a specific group of men whom they identified as high risk. There was enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that these men could experience severe burns and lesions from eating the chicken sandwiches, although unrelated to the temperature of the food. Chick-fil-A corporate, after studying the market in the Castro District, also warned that these same men might try to claim related injuries from attempting to take the food in through other parts of their bodies, a common occurrence there.”

Locations in Palo Alto and Menlo Park were closed as well, after franchise owners tired of dealing with unusually heavy volumes of customer complaints.

“Apparently, advertising ‘soul food’ in those parts of the city had led to accusations of false advertising,” Hollywell admitted.

Reservations with Online Reservations System
Beyond some customers’ frustrations with trying to find restaurants participating in the promotion, Chick-fil-A has received criticism about the limited number of reservations available and the questionnaire being used to quality those reservations.

Hollywell defended the limit as a simple matter of logistics and commerce.

“To continue serving quality chicken entrées to customers, Chick-fil-A can’t just give away the farm,” Hollywell explained. “And it’s not merely a consideration of profit. Chick-fil-A is a community servant. Charity requires money. For example, the company co-sponsors marriage conferences, the Pennsylvania Family Institute (an organization that seeks to ‘strengthen families by restoring to public life the traditional, foundational principles and values essential for the well-being of society’) and the National Organization for Marriage. So, not every breakfast can be free.”

It’s not the first time the company has come under fire for not having enough food on hand.

Hollywell said, “For example, this year a group of people alleged being denied food at one marriage conference. They really seemed uncomfortable with the event, which was odd. Stranger still, they were broken up into groups of all men and all women -- not what you’d expect to see at a marriage rally. Well, Chick-fil-A had no choice but to limit the amount of food to those who were taking the event more seriously. A business can’t just go around doling out food to every member of the community if it wants to maintain its important charity work. That would be anarchy. If some of these people spent less time reading Details and Glamour, and more time studying economics and even the Bible, they might have a better grasp on the issues of supply and demand.”

Market Research is a Cross Every Business Must Bear
Despite clarifications from Chick-fil-A, Hollywell and others have refused to comment on the controversy surrounding the questions contained in the online reservation form.

In addition to completing basic requests for dates, times, store locations and contact information, the form includes a survey that Chick-fil-A has described as standard marketing research.

“If we can’t use this opportunity to gather intelligence about our customers and their needs, how can we progress as a company?” a Chick-fil-A spokesperson told reporters. “Marketing research is the cross every business must bear.”

But even some supporters of Chick-fil-A confess that the questions, out of context, can be taken the wrong way. An image of the survey follows.

Follow up: As of this posting, the ACLU informed The Bennington Vale Evening Transcript that a Los Angeles man filed a complaint that the “Enter Word Verification Here” box displayed the phrase “berngayesinnr,” which he took as a derogatory and homophobic message. Chick-fil-A’s web designers, however, explained that their verification system relies on a random letter generation process, with any interpretations being nothing more than coincidence or a biased reading.

(c) 2011. All stories are works of satire and parody. See disclaimers.