There are few foods as emblematic of the American South as fried chicken, and no one puts that Southern staple on a bun quite like Chick-fil-A. What started as a small family-owned restaurant in an Atlanta suburb is now a nationally recognized brand serving up a chicken-centric menu from coast to coast with a signature smile and a "my pleasure" farewell to send you on your way.
More than seven decades after its founding, Chick-fil-A maintains its small-town charm and commitment to quality — two key ingredients that have given the brand its staying power and built up a loyal fan base. Originally a regional chain, Chick-fil-A now boasts more than 3,000 locations across 48 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico with plans to open its first UK locations in 2025 and expand into parts of Asia and Europe as well.
If you haven't yet had the chance to give this poultry powerhouse a try (or even if you have), there are a few things to keep in mind to get the most out of your visit to this Southern staple. Direct from the mouth of a Southerner, here are 14 mistakes you should avoid when ordering at Chick-fil-A.
Swinging By On A Sunday
A rookie mistake for Southerners and a disappointing realization for those unfamiliar with the brand's religious roots, visiting Chick-fil-A on a Sunday hoping to grab a quick chicken sandwich will only result in disappointment. The tradition dates back to when founder Truett Cathy opened Dwarf House (the original Chick-fil-A) in 1946. A devout Southern Baptist and restaurant industry veteran, Cathy believed in allowing his employees time off to do as they please. Even once his chicken empire began to take off, the founder chose to stay closed on Sundays on principle — a practice the brand maintains to this day.
While it's hard to argue with choosing people over profits, the decision can feel like a head-scratcher at times. Chick-fil-A franchises in 24-hour locations like airports and rest stops have been the subject of debate as recently as December 2023, when New York lawmakers introduced a bill that would require restaurants at state highway system rest areas to stay open every day, including several Chick-fil-A locations.
Regardless of your personal feelings on the policy, the reality is that all Chick-fil-A locations are closed on Sundays. So if you're craving chicken over the weekend, you'll either have to wait for the Monday morning rush or have the foresight to stock up on Saturday night to enjoy some Chick-fil-A leftovers.
Waiting In Line
Consistently high standards and premium customer service tend to draw a crowd, especially when hot, fresh chicken is involved. Prior to the pandemic, Chick-fil-A had some of the longest drive-thru wait times in the country, leading company leadership to execute a nationwide overhaul of the process. While the Chick-fil-A drive-thru has become a steady model of efficiency in recent years, that doesn't mean we like waiting in line any less.
Luckily, there's an app for that. As part of Chick-fil-A's overhaul of its drive-thru lines, the brand has introduced an extra lane at 300 of its locations only for those picking up orders placed through the restaurant's app. Once you've made sure that your preferred location has mobile drive-thru, all you have to do is place your order in the Chick-fil-A app, select "Mobile Thru" as the pickup option, scan the QR code upon arrival, and pick up your order at the dedicated drive-thru window.
Not Getting Saucy
Even the most delicious cut of chicken benefits from a dash of sauce, and Chick-fil-A has plenty of that. The brand is so confident in its sauce game that employees won't complete your order until they've asked you which (and how many of each) sauce you'd like with your eight-piece nuggets.
Unlike other fast-food joints, Chick-fil-A boasts not just one, but seven unique sauces for you to mix and match to your heart's delight. This isn't your run-of-the-mill packet of ketchup or mayonnaise, either. From tangy cult-favorite Polynesian and Zesty Buffalo to Sweet & Spicy Sriracha, the chain offers quite a range of dipping sauce options.
Arguably the king of condiments at Chick-fil-A is its eponymous signature sauce. Sunshine-hued Chick-fil-A sauce is a sweet, smoky, and tangy taste sensation that can only be described as honey mustard-meets-barbecue sauce — an appropriately Southern combo that compliments crispy chicken as few other dipping sauces can. The signature sauce is so popular that it's been bottled and sold on grocery store shelves nationwide since 2020. No matter which condiment speaks to you, be sure to stock up on a few extra packets for dipping and dunking those giant waffle fries.
Only Ordering Fried Chicken
While crispy fried chicken sandwiches and nuggets are certainly a staple at Chick-fil-A, it's a mistake not to give the brand's grilled chicken offerings a try as well. Juicy, flavorful, and marginally healthier than its deep-fried cousin, Chick-fil-A's grilled chicken benefits from a lemon-herb marinade that keeps the all-white meat offering succulent and moist. When paired with the brand's honey-roasted barbecue sauce, the grilled chicken offerings has the potential to transport you right back to childhood cookouts by the pool.
Chick-fil-A's grilled chicken is worth trying for its flavor, but the health benefits (as far as fast food goes) are solid as well. Among the more nutritious offerings on the menu, the grilled chicken sandwich is served with surprisingly fresh green leaf lettuce and two slices of tomato on a multigrain brioche bun for a well-rounded lunch at 390 calories and 28 grams of protein. Those with stricter dietary restrictions will find comfort in the grilled nuggets. Devoid of gluten and peanut residue (allergen warning: Chick-fil-A fries its chicken in peanut oil), these meaty morsels are packed with 25 grams of protein per eight-count order for a 130-calorie keto-friendly snack.
Only Getting Fries With That
Waffle fries are the standard side dish at Chick-fil-A, but they're far from the only supporting cast member on the menu. Not one to settle for simply okay, Chick-fil-A's sides are a cut above the standard fast food fare, with a fresh fruit cup devoid of soggy melon and a side salad large enough to be an entree.
However, it's the homestyle options that elevate Chick-fil-A's meals from tasty to triumphant. Feeling a little under the weather? Try adding a cup of chunky chicken noodle soup to your next order. Looking for a healthy side that doesn't sacrifice flavor? The kale crunch salad, which is tossed tangy lemon vinaigrette and topped with crispy almonds, can be a solid option.
The star of the side dish show is also the brand's newest permanent offering. Introduced in 2019, Chick-fil-A's mac and cheese is an homage to the brand's consistently high standards and Southern roots. A creamy blend of cheddar, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses is baked daily in-house for a warm, fresh bite with a crispy crust that wouldn't be out of place on your Thanksgiving table. You can even order the fan-favorite side dish as part of Chick-fil-A's catering menu, just in case you want to share the love.
Missing Out On Seasonal Treats
Like many other chains, Chick-fil-A celebrates the changing seasons with often-recurring limited-time offerings that sometimes get as much hype as its chicken sandwiches. For some fans, it wouldn't be Christmas without Chick-fil-A's peppermint chip milkshake, a festive season staple since 2008 typically joined on the winter menu by comforting chicken tortilla soup. Peach milkshakes trumpet the return of summer across the South, while fruity twists on Chick-fil-A's signature sweet tea and lemonade celebrate in-season produce come springtime.
However, not all seasonal treats are annual standbys. After a multi-year hiatus, Chick-fil-A is bringing back its fan-favorite mango-passionfruit lemonade and iced tea for a refreshing start to 2024. In a new twist, the sip can also be enjoyed as a frosted lemonade (which blends mango-passionfruit lemonade with soft-serve ice cream) for a tangy sweet treat.
In true Chick-fil-A fashion, new additions to the seasonal line-up are constantly being tried and tested to keep the rotation from getting stale. The Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich, for example, debuted nationwide this past fall as an autumn exclusive and the brand's first-ever twist on its classic sandwich recipe. All that to say, keep an eye out for the chain's seasonal treats — they don't stick around for long.
With so many indulgent offerings on its savory menu, you might expect Chick-fil-A to phone it in on the sweet side, but the reality couldn't be farther from the truth. Rather, the brand sticks to its policy of simplicity, aiming to do a few things really, really well. Generally speaking, Chick-fil-A's desserts serve as a complement to its meals, providing just enough sweetness to satisfy without erring into overly indulgent territory.
Simple vanilla soft serve (dubbed "Ice Dream" on the menu) offered up in a cup or cone is a taste of nostalgia, but those looking for a little more should go for the milkshakes in classic flavors like strawberry or cookies & cream. For something a little lighter, try a frosted beverage to enjoy the creaminess of Ice Dream with the tang of lemonade or the robust flavor of coffee.
Craving a baked good? Chick-fil-A has you covered there, too. There are chocolate chunk-packed cookies made with a toothsome oatmeal-rich batter and fudgy brownies, which could always be paired with a cup of Ice Dream.
Ordering The Usual Soda
It may be tempting to reach for your usual soda to quench your thirst while you're chowing down on a chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A. The chain offers a full range of Coca-Cola products on its soda fountain, but if you want to try something more specific and unique, look no further than the brand's signature sweet tea. Sweetened with cane sugar, it's a taste of the South in a glass — or rather, styrofoam cup.
Not a tea drinker? Not a problem. House-made lemonade proudly squeezed from real lemons, has its own cult-like following, especially when given seasonal flair from time to time. But the pièce de résistance of Chick-fil-A beverages is a Sunjoy. An Arnold Palmer by any other name, Sunjoy is a blend of equal parts tea (sweetened or unsweetened) and freshly squeezed lemonade. The light, fresh, and summery beverage provides a bright, tangy contrast to the savory flavors of a classic Chick-fil-A sandwich.
Not Getting Free Food
That's right, there are ways to nab yourself a free Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich — if you know when to go. A clever marketing ploy, Cow Appreciation Day historically falls on the second Tuesday of July and serves as a way for Chick-fil-A to honor its beloved black-and-white bovine mascot with a premium promo: Dress up like a cow, get free chicken.
Sadly, Chick-fil-A hasn't celebrated the holiday since it was indefinitely postponed in 2020 and hasn't yet made a statement about the 2024 festivities. However, the brand has introduced new ways for guests to earn free food. Debuted in summer 2023, Code Moo is an interactive limited-time game available through the Chick-fil-A app that invites you to help the cows foil the grand opening of the fictitious Circus Burger franchise. Each week from the end of June through July, players are given a new mission to complete for which the reward is a free treat, ranging from an eight-count nugget to a brownie.
While nothing has been said officially, we have a sneaking suspicion that Code Moo might be replacing Cow Appreciation Day. But considering it provides more chances to win free food over a longer span of time, we're not so sure that's a bad thing.
Skipping The Salads
Who hasn't been disappointed by a lackluster fast-food salad in their time? Often filled with limp lettuce and wilted veggies, fast food salads are typically not even worth the trip through the drive-thru. However, that's not necessarily the case at Chick-fil-A.
Sticking with the simplicity model, Chick-fil-A serves up three crave-worthy salads so good that they've spawned legions of copycat recipes online. Each veggie-packed bowl caters to a unique flavor profile, so you actually feel like you have options. A classic Cobb salad gets a Chick-fil-A twist with a topping of sliced white meat nuggets and a flavorful boost from charred tomato and crispy red bell peppers. For something a little zestier, go for the Southwest-inspired salad with its spicy grilled chicken, roasted corn, poblano chiles, and crisp crunch from tortilla strips and chili-lime pepitas. Freshness is personified in the fruit-filled market salad tossed with blue cheese, harvest nut granola, and roasted almonds. Chick-fil-A also offers three proprietary salad dressings designed to pair with each of its salads: avocado lime ranch for the cobb, creamy salsa for the spicy Southwest, and a zesty apple cider vinaigrette for its fruity market salad.
Only Swinging By For Lunch
Ordering a chicken sandwich at lunchtime is a given, but Chick-fil-A's morning options shouldn't be overlooked either. The menu isn't just chicken; it runs the gamut from hot and fresh chicken biscuits to bacon, egg, and cheese muffins and even Greek yogurt parfaits. In fact, Chick-fil-A's breakfast offerings are nearly as expansive as its all-day selections, ensuring your tastebuds won't ever get tired in the morning.
People just can't seem to get enough of the flaky, buttery biscuits in particular — Chick-fil-A reported that it sold nearly 170 million biscuits in 2022 alone. And with the permanent addition of the spicy chicken biscuit last fall, it's likely that number will only continue to grow. It turns out there's a reason why Chick-fil-A's breakfast is so immensely popular: The biscuits at every freestanding Chick-fil-A location are handmade every morning. At the rate at which those hot and fresh delights fly out the drive-thru window, it's very likely that your biscuit came out of the oven just a few minutes after you ordered it.
Ordering Your Sandwich With No Pickles
Think you're not a fan of pickles? Give Chick-fil-A's classic chicken sandwich a try. Developed by founder Truett Cathy himself in 1964, the original recipe features a golden brown fried chicken breast with two dill pickle slices on a toasted butter bun. Unchanged since its invention, the winning combo combines fat, salt, acid, and heat in the most mouthwatering way. It will absolutely alter your experience if you opt to go pickle-free, so be sure to try the sandwich at least once the way Cathy intended before deciding whether to banish the pickles for good.
The addition of pickles to the original fried chicken sandwich was no accident. Brined in sugar, dill pickles bring a sweetness and tanginess to the party that helps to cut through the richness of crispy fried chicken. In fact, pickles are often the secret ingredient behind some of the best fried chicken recipes. While we can't say for sure since the original recipe is locked in a vault at Chick-fil-A's corporate office, it's entirely possible that the chicken's proprietary brine includes a dash of pickle juice. But you didn't hear it from us.
Not Upgrading Your Takeout At Home
It's not enough that Chick-fil-A helps you make meals on the go even easier, now the brand wants to help you eliminate food waste at home. In late 2023, the brand debuted "Extra Helpings: Inspiring Stories and Imaginative Recipes from Chick-fil-A Shared Table," a free digital cookbook filled with fan-favorite recipes designed to use up leftover takeout items.
The collection of 26 recipes spans every meal, from transforming an eight-pack of grilled nuggets and a side of kale crunch salad into a frittata for breakfast to creating a hearty chicken pot pie or pot of chicken noodle soup to feed the whole family for dinner. Die-hard fans will appreciate the inclusion of recipes for long-lost favorites like Chick-fil-A's chicken salad.
This cookbook is more than just a fun bonus for fans. Developed in partnership with Chick-fil-A's Shared Table food donation program, the cookbook aims to increase Shared Table's footprint and encourage conversation around food insecurity and how to prevent food waste at home.
Not Earning Rewards When You Order
We've already established that ordering ahead on the app saves you time waiting in line, but did you know you can earn and redeem rewards points for your favorite Chick-fil-A treats? The Chick-fil-A One tiered membership program earns you rewards with every purchase — the more you spend, the higher the tier and the more valuable the rewards.
Initially, each dollar you spend (before tax) earns you 10 points to use towards available rewards like a free ice cream or large waffle fry. With every additional tier, you earn more points per dollar, which helps you earn rewards faster. Plus once you reach silver status, you can gift your rewards to friends and family so they can enjoy a free treat on you. Now that's a tasty way to share it forward. The app and membership program are free to use, so it's a no-brainer to start earning points toward free treats on purchases you're probably already going to make anyway.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.