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Fast Food

Chick-fil-A takes Manhattan as it continues to dominate nationally

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The chain opened its first New York City location Oct. 3. (AP Photo)

This weekend, Chick-fil-A made headlines for the throngs of people in New York City waiting to get into its newest--and now largest--restaurant.  

Hundreds of people waited in line all night at the corner of 37th Street and Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan for the chance to be one of the first 100 people to win free weekly Chick-fil-A for a year. 

The grand opening was also met with protesters, which included the animal and gay rights group "Collectively Free" demonstrating outside the restaurant.

But individuals waiting in line did not seem to pay much mind--they were there for the chicken.

The fast food chain with conservative values continues to bring in record profits, even during a time when many fast-food restaurants are struggling.   

And with significantly fewer locations than many of its competitors, and the fact that all of its locations are closed on Sundays, Chick-fil-A’s success  may be nothing short of a fast food miracle.

According to trade publication QSR Magazine’s list of top 50 quick service restaurants in 2014, Chick-fil-A ranks 8 behind heavy hitters like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Burger King.

But in terms of revenue, it beats every chain pizza brand in country including Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars. Chick-fil-A also outperformed Chipotle, Arby’s, Carl’s Jr and its biggest chicken competitor—KFC.

What’s even more astounding is that Chick-fil-A beats its competitors with fewer locations. In 2014, there were 1,887 locations, pulling in nearly $5.8 billion in sales. Arby’s, by contrast, has over 3,200 U.S. locations, but made about $3 billion last year.

In a head-to-head chicken battle, KFC, which operates 4,370 U.S. locations pulled in an average of $960,000 at each of its restaurants. But each Chick-fil-A location made about $3.1 million in 2014—being opened only six day opposed to KFC's seven days.

Since founder Truett Cathy—a devout Baptist-- opened the first Chick-fil-A in Georgia in 1946, the restaurants have maintained its policy to be closed on Sundays, based on the philosophy that franchise owners and their families are given a day of rest. 

Today the company says that the decision to stay closed is “as much practical as spiritual” and encourages employees and owners to “to rest, spend time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so.”

Some have attributed Chick-fil-A's success to the six-day-a-week policy that creates a type of scarcity. Chick-fil-A spokeswoman Bekki Poelker doesn't dispute it. 

"We have found that [guests] respect the decision to give our employees a day off," she told the Huffington Post. "Some even tell us our food tastes better on Monday as a result!"

Over the years, the chain's conservative values have won over scores of chicken sandwich lovers—and alienated many left-leaners. In 2012, Chick-fil-A's  chief executive, Dan T. Cathy (son of Truett) sparked controversy for his comments in opposition to same-sex marriage. That resulted in protests where gay couples would have “kiss-ins” outside Chick-fil-A restaurants.

The controversy has since died down, yet its trademark sandwich -- breaded fried chicken breast served on a buttered bun with two pickles -- and Southern-style service continues to win over customers--even some in the LGBT community. 

Regardless of why consumers are flocking to Chick-fil-A, its sales are undisputed.

In 2014, Dunkin’ Donuts—which is ranked about the same as Chick-fil-A in overall sales—had just over 8,000 U.S. locations, nearly four times that of  Chick-fil-A’s, according to QSR Magazine. But each Chick-fil-A location pulled over three times the revenue of each donut shop.

It remains to be seen if Chick-fil-A will succeed in New York City, where there is no drive thru and lots of non-chain restaurant options. The new location, with its 200 employees, will have to focus on speed and get customers in and out in four to six minutes. 

But there are already plans to open more restaurants in the area, which could mean chicken chain is poised to take a bite out of the Big Apple.