Chick-fil-A's first UK location will close after 6 months

Chick-fil-A's first location in the UK is set to close when its lease runs out in six months. 

A representative for The Oracle shopping center in Reading told the BBC that the lease will not be extended beyond the six-month pilot period, calling it "the right thing to do."

"Chick-fil-A is always evaluating potential new locations in the hope of serving customers great food and award-winning service," a Chick-fil-A representative told Business Insider. "This six-month pilot licensed location was part of our exploration in international markets."

Chick-fil-A and the shopping center faced backlash when the first UK location of the chicken chain opened last week. Critics organized a protest, with the goal of enlightening "potential patrons to the Chick-fil-A chain and their anti LGBT+ stance." The Facebook invitation to the protest draws connections between Chick-fil-A and anti-LGBTQ legislation in Uganda, including the "Kill the Gays" bill that would impose the death penalty for homosexuality.  

RELATED: Chick-Fil-A through the years

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Chick-fil-a through the years
UNITED STATES - 2008/09/01: Chickfila fast food restaurant. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(cm ) BZ22CHICK_CM03 Chick-fil-A Inc. president and COO Dan Cathy, son of the chain's founder Truett Cathy, sounds the trumpet while visiting one of his franchises in Littleton, 9976 W. Remington Place, on Monday, April 20, 2009. Later in the week on Thursday, April 23, Cathy will help open the 1440th nationwide franchise at 4090 River Point Parkway in Sheridan. Cathy an avid trumpet player belted out a happy birthday rendition to customers who were visiting the Littleton restaurant. Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post (Photo By Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Chick-fil-A team member, Lierin Patterson, loads up orders at the restaurant near Southlands Mall in Aurora recently. The ReturnMore company had partnered with this Chick-fil-A, presenting flyers with a QR code on them, right, that once scanned on a smartphone, will connect you to the Chick-fil-A facebook page and will then offer coupons for special discounts, in this case, a free sandwich. Andy Cross, The Denver Post (Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
A man packs up a tent in the parking lot before the grand opening of the Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Costa Mesa, California, U.S., on Thursday, April 26, 2012. 100 lucky customers who camped out for over 24 hours received coupons good for a year's worth of free meals. Costa Mesa's first Chick-fil-A restaurant is one of 96 locations the chain plans to open across the country in 2012, creating nearly 7,000 new jobs according to the company. Photographer: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Chick-fil-A logo is seen on a take out bag at one of its restaurants on July 28, 2012 in Bethesda, Maryland. Chick-fil-A, with more than 1,600 outlets mainly in the southern United States, has become the target of gay rights activists and their allies after president Dan Cathy came out against same-sex marriage last week. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages)
A Chick-fil-A restaurant August 1, 2012 in Manassas, Virginia on Chick-fil-A Day of Appreciation. The ongoing controversy over an interview with Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy has grown during the past two weeks and now involves an Appreciation Day, to be followed by a counter-Appreciation Day and a 'Kiss-in.'' Comments by Cathy over same-sex marriage went viral, and several entertainers, musicians and politicians condemned Cathy for being 'hateful and bigoted.' AFP PHOTO/ Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)
A man carries he drink outside a Chick-Fil-A fast food restaurant in Hollywood, California August 1, 2012. Thousands of Americans turned out Wednesday to feast on fried chicken in a politically-charged show of support for a family owned fast-food chain which opposes same-sex marriage. Long lines and traffic jams were reported throughout the American heartland after 630,000 people declared on Facebook they would take part in a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)
CHICAGO - JANUARY 12: Chick-fil-A restaurant, in Chicago, Illinois on JANUARY 12, 2013 (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
An original chicken sandwich and waffle fries are arranged for a photograph at a Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, U.S., on Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2014. The U.S. economy grew more rapidly in the fourth quarter than previously estimated as consumer spending climbed by the most in three years, showing the expansion had momentum heading into this years harsh winter. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 2: The interior of Chick-Fil-A, a day before its opening, on 37th Street and 6th Avenue, on October 2, 2015 in New York City.. The fast food chicken restaurant is set to open its first store in Manhattan. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
The Chick-fil-A mascot rides an elevator during an event ahead of the grand opening for the restaurant in New York, U.S., on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Chick-fil-A, the Southern chicken-sandwich chain that has drawn both controversy and copycats over the years, has finally arrived in New York. The company will open a 5,000-square-foot (465-square-meter), three-level restaurant in Manhattan's Garment District that will be the chain's largest location in the nation. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 2: The exterior of Chick-Fil-A, a day before its opening, on 37th Street and 6th Avenue, on October 2, 2015 in New York City.. The fast food chicken restaurant is set to open its first store in Manhattan. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
A employee picks up a fried chicken sandwich during an event ahead of the grand opening for a Chick-fil-A restaurant in New York, U.S., on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Chick-fil-A, the Southern chicken-sandwich chain that has drawn both controversy and copycats over the years, has finally arrived in New York. The company will open a 5,000-square-foot (465-square-meter), three-level restaurant in Manhattan's Garment District that will be the chain's largest location in the nation. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Chick-fil-A's links to socially conservative Christians promoting harsh, anti-LGBTQ legislation in Uganda are less direct than some viral social media posts have portrayed. While Chick-fil-A previously donated to the massive American nonprofit National Christian Foundation (NCF) — which has made donations to groups linked to anti-LGBTQ legislation in various countries — the chicken chain stopped those donations in 2012. Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy has continued donations to an affiliated nonprofit as an individual. 

Read more: Chick-fil-A's ties to a controversial Christian charity are going viral as the chain expands into the UK. Here's the breakdown of what happened.

Chick-fil-AHollis Johnson/Business Insider

Currently, the most controversial donations from Chick-fil-A and its philanthropic arm, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, are to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This money funds sports camps and a holiday gift-giving program with the Salvation Army. 

"The calling for us is to ensure that we are relevant and impactful in the community, and that we're helping children and that we're helping them to be everything that they can be," Rodney Bullard, the head of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, told Business Insider earlier this year.

"For us, that's a much higher calling than any political or cultural war that's being waged," Bullard continued. "This is really about an authentic problem that is on the ground, that is present and ever present in the lives of many children who can't help themselves." 

Read more: For Chick-fil-A, impact trumps 'any political or cultural war' when it comes to controversial donations

While Chick-fil-A emphasizes that it is an inclusive place to work, the company's anti-LGBTQ reputation continues. Coverage from progressive publications often frames Chick-fil-A as a homophobic company, and new locations in Reading and Toronto have been met with protest.

Meanwhile, some right-wing Americans have made Chick-fil-A a symbol of religious freedom. Earlier this year a "Save Chick-fil-A" bill, criticized by LGBTQ advocates, was signed into law in Texas. The bill, which bars governments from retaliating against businesses and individuals based on religion, does not actually mention Chick-fil-A in its text. The company had no involvement in the bill's promotion or passage. 

Chick-fil-A's reputation has done little to impact its sales in the US. Annual sales have grown to $10.5 billion in 2018, up from $4.6 billion in 2012. The chain regularly tops rankings for customer service, food, and more.

However, experts have told Business Insider that international expansion could be the one space where Chick-fil-A's reputation might hurt the chicken chain. 

"Their reputation could absolutely impact their ability to expand or land partnerships with other brands," Chris Allieri, founder at brand consultancy Mulberry & Astor, told Business Insider earlier this year. Allieri said he would never counsel a CEO or brand to work with a company that appears to support "discrimination and hate."

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SEE ALSO: The inside story of how Chick-fil-A used Christian values and a 'clone army' to build a booming business that's defying the retail apocalypse and taking over America

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