Chick-fil-A poised to jump Subway, Burger King in US fast food market

Booming restaurant chain Chick-fil-A is claiming the ranks of the most popular fast food destinations and could become the third-largest U.S, brand by the end of 2018, according to a report this week from a restaurant industry research firm.

The Georgia-based, chicken-focused company has a “reasonable” chance of jumping from seventh to third in overall sales by the end of the year and “90-95 percent” odds of taking the third spot by 2019. If it accomplishes the feat, Chick-fil-A will rank behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks in terms of domestic system-side sales, surpassing industry giants such as Subway, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Burger King.

“We have long pointed out that Chick-fil-A is the restaurant competitor with which McDonald’s U.S. should most concern itself – and by extension, investors should, too,” research analyst Mark Kalinowski wrote. “But this goes beyond McDonald’s.”

Chick-fil-A’s U.S. sales could jump about 15 percent to roughly $10.4 billion in 2018, up from about $9 billion in 2017, the firm said, citing Technomic sales data. That total would rank just ahead of sandwich chain Subway, which currently ranks third among U.S. fast-food operators.

McDonald’s, the longtime industry leader, is expected to post U.S. system-wide sales in excess of $38 billion.

Chick-fil-A’s sales were up more than 15 percent through the first eight months of the year, outpacing industry-wide sales growth of about one percent, Restaurant Business reported in August.

“It likely would take a major self-inflicted stumble from Chick-fil-A itself to prevent that concept from reaching the number three position in 2019,” Kalinowski wrote. “All this means that the competitive risk that Chick-Fil-A represents to McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other publicly traded rivals is only expanding in importance.”