Becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee is almost impossible
Want to become a Chick-fil-A franchisee? Good luck — the company only accepts about 0.4% of applicants who apply every year.
The chicken chain reports that it receives more than 20,000 inquiries from franchisee candidates every year. Of those candidates, Chick-fil-A selects just 75 to 80 new franchisees annually, according to spokesperson Amanda Hannah.
"[Chick-fil-A] is probably the most particular franchisor out there," franchise business expert Joel Libava told Business Insider.
Libava says Chick-fil-A immediately comes to mind when listing the most selective franchisors in the business — though he says the company is not a good fit for everyone.
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"We do not offer franchise opportunities to all qualified candidates," reads the 'Franchise Opportunities' section of the company's website. "Rather, we select the best candidates for a limited number of franchise opportunities."
Becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee is a multi-step process. First, candidates submit a form through the company's website expressing their interest. Next, Chick-fil-A interviews candidates — as well as their friends, family members, and business partners.
Once they are selected, franchisees still have to undergo a multi-week training program before they open their own locations.
For most fast-food chains, the biggest roadblock to becoming a franchisee is cost. For example, if you want to be a franchisee at McDonald's — another notoriously selective company — you need at least $750,000 in liquid assets and a background in business. Startup costs range from $955,708 to $2.3 million, including a $45,000 franchise fee.
Conversely, it only costs $10,00 to open a new Chick-fil-A, with no threshold for net worth or liquid assets. Chick-fil-A pays for all startup costs, including real estate, restaurant construction, and equipment.
What makes becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee so difficult isn't the money, says Libava. It's fitting into the chain's unique culture and business model.
"[Chick-fil-A] wants 100% control — and they have it," says Libava. "It's a very, very unique individual who is going to apply and be accepted."
Others in the fast-food industry agree with Libava's estimation that Chick-fil-A's franchisees stand out in the franchise industry, something that may help the chicken chain's business.
"I don't necessarily subscribe to their religious beliefs, or their beliefs about the world, but I think they find owners that are religious bent [who] tend to be more conservative," KFC CMO Kevin Hochman told Business Insider in May. "They can make sure that procedures get followed. I think that's a competitive advantage for them. I don't know if it's an advantage I would want, but it's certainly working for them from a business standpoint."
Life as a Chick-fil-A franchisee — which the company calls an operator — is very different from the typical franchisee experience. Operators do not own or receive any equity in their businesses. The company picks the restaurant's location, and then owns the restaurant.
Franchisees cannot sell their locations or pass them on to the next generation. Nor can they open multiple locations, which can limit franchisees' potential profits.
"I advise [potential franchisees] against it if they originally wanted a business they could sell someday," says Libava, who believes most people who indicate interest in opening a Chick-fil-A location don't fully understand the difference between a franchisee and an operator.
The company says that its model allows franchisees to be more intimately involved in day-to-day operations.
"Chick-fil-A operators must be as comfortable rolling up their sleeves in the kitchen as they are shaking hands in the dining room," Hannah told Business Insider.
Chick-fil-A's franchise website states that the company is looking for franchisees seeking a hands-on business opportunity, with a proven track record in business leadership. The ideal franchisee has successfully managed his or her personal finances, is results-oriented, and has no other active business ventures.
If that sounds like you (and you aren't opposed to Chick-fil-A's business model), you can apply now on the company's website — there's a one in 250 chance you could have the chance to open the chicken franchise of your dreams.
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