Controversial American fast food chain Chick-Fil-A will be forced to close their first ever UK restaurant after mounting pressure from British LGBTQ+ activists. On Friday, the news broke that The Oracle shopping centre in Reading, where the restaurant is housed, had announced that the “right thing to do” was to not extend the restaurant’s lease beyond the “six-month pilot period”. The restaurant only opened its doors on the 10th of October.
The move comes after activists expressed concern over the company’s history of donations to groups that have a record of promoting an anti LGBTQ+ agenda. According to a report by the BBC, members of Reading Pride cited Chick-Fil-A’s association with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home and the US Salvation Army, organisations who all have a history of hostility towards the gay community, according to Reading Pride.
In a statement on Twitter, the group declared:
“We are staunchly opposed to Chick-fil-A setting up shop in the UK and certainly in Reading. The chain’s ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the UK as we are a progressive country [that] continues to strive toward equality.”
Speaking after the announcement was made, Reading Pride called the decision “good news” and added that it was a "reasonable request... to allow for re-settlement and notice for employees that have moved from other jobs". However, they also said that they would not stop protesting until the restaurant was gone altogether, suggesting that the fight is not over.
In an attempt to brush off the set back, Chick-Fil-A said on Saturday:
“We have been very pleased with the lines since opening Oct. 10 and are grateful for customer response to our food and our approach to customer service. We mutually agreed to a six-month lease with the Oracle Mall in Reading as part of a longer term strategy for us as we look to expand our international presence.”
In a previous statement provided to the BBC, Chick-Fil-A had said:
"Our giving has always focused on youth and education. We have never donated with the purpose of supporting a social or political agenda.
"There are 145,000 people - black, white; gay, straight; Christian, non-Christian - who represent Chick-fil-A."
Despite being one of the largest American fast food brands, with over 2,400 restaurants in the US, Chick-Fil-A has found overseas expansion a challenge when compared to its competitors. Given the hostility with which this British venture has been received, it remains unclear what their next move will be.