Is Chick-fil-A About to Test Vegan Options?

Chick-fil-A is on pace to become the United States’ 3rd-largest dining operation in terms of sales, behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks. Now, the chain whose most famous ad slogan is “eat mor chikin [sic]” sure seems ready to think beyond the bird.

Based on a recent Business Insider interview with Amanda Norris, the executive editor of Chick-fil-A’s menu, the chicken chain has a close eye towards adding vegan options to the menu, maybe even joining the rapidly-escalating meat substitute arms race.

“We’ve kind of been watching it and now we are moving more from the watch stage and getting into that understand, or really imagine stage,” Norris said of Chick-fil-A’s approach to plant-based and vegan options. As with most new menu items or other changes at Chick-fil-A, the “imagine” stage is followed by separate steps to prototype, validate, and ultimately launch. All told, Norris told Business Insider, that process can take between 18 and 24 months.

Such a timeline would place Chick-fil-A behind other fast food chains when it comes to beefing up vegetarian/vegan options. Burger King successfully tested its Impossible Whopper in St. Louis and plans to take it nationwide by the end of the year. Del Taco recently introduced a taco made with faux meat from Beyond, the Wall Street darling fresh off a highly successful IPO. McDonald’s, the one burgers and fries outpost above Chick-fil-A in sales rankings, just introduced a vegan burger in Germany.

Given the famous absence of beef on its menu, finding a plant-based alternative isn’t quite as easy as buying up a bunch of Beyond or Impossible burgers and slapping them on some buns. While lab-grown chicken does exist, those options don’t seem to be quite as commercially viable at the moment. That might explain why Chick-fil-A is taking its time.

Still, Norris thinks that Chick-fil-A’s goal is to introduce vegan or vegetarian items that do ore than just get rid of chicken— assuming that’s what their loyal customers are into. “I think it goes back to how far will our customers want us to go,” Norris said. “We think it is certainly beyond just no meat on salads or no meat in a wrap. It might be some kind of alternative protein on a sandwich.”

Given how many fast food chains seem eager to add plant-based alternatives, it would hardly be a surprise if Chick-fil-A followed suit in an effort to cash in on the craze. Then again, they’ve always made it a point to do things a little bit differently. Only time will tell if we will eat mor or les chikin.  

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