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The Teens Have Spoken: Chick-fil-A Remains Favorite Restaurant

Three things remain constant in life: death, taxes, and Chick-fil-A.

In Piper-Sandler’s recent survey of teen spending in the U.S., the Georgia-based restaurant chain still struts its stuff above Starbucks and Chipotle and accounts for 13% of teens’ pocket cash, according to the report. Starbucks came close with 12% and Chipotle was a distant third at 7%. Piper Sandler is an investment bank which conducts the semi-annual poll of more than 5,000 American teens in 47 states.

Since the pandemic, Chick-fil-A has enjoyed quite the sales boon. The chicken sandwich specialist enjoys almost twice as many cars in drive-thru lines than its competitors according to QSR (5.45), followed by McDonald’s (3.13) and Wendy’s (2.67). The motor queue also moves faster than its competitors, slinging chicken at a clip of 107 seconds per vehicle, followed by McDonald’s at 118 seconds and Taco Bell at 127 seconds.

And, last week, Chick-fil-A released some truly staggering numbers, approaching almost twice the sales revenue since before the pandemic. It generated $18.814 billion in sales in 2022. Its last four years look like this:

Chick-fil-A Sales Revenue (billions)

  • 2022: $18.814
  • 2021: $16.674
  • 2020: $13.7
  • 2019: $12.2

Where Do Teens Shop? On Their Phones

Other key takeaways from the Piper Sandler report: food was the No. 1 spend for men (24% of their wallet). Specific to food and beverage, SQ’s Cash App was the most popular peer-to-peer money transfer app with 41%, coming in just above Venmo at 39%. Apple Pay ranked No. 1 for payment apps within the past month (39%) followed by Cash App (25%).

More than half of American teenagers cite Amazon as their favorite e-commerce site (57%). Forty percent of teens are at least part-time employed.

Following nationwide trends regarding plant-based food, less than half of teens are willing to try plant-based meat (42%). During spring 2021, that number was 49%. Plant-based dairy didn’t fare much better; just 40% answered they consume it or are willing to try it. Goldfish remains the most popular snack brand (12%), followed by Cheez-It and Lay’s (10% each), and Doritos (6%).

Perhaps most telling about this year’s survey is how teens are consuming media (and the influencers and brands upon them). In the year of TikTok everything, TikTok usership actually declined as the favorite social media platform (37%), followed by SNAP (27%) and Instagram (23%).

For customer service interaction, the mobile phone is the preferred method with multi-year gains via texting and SMS messaging. Top social causes are the environment (19%), followed by racial equity (9%). Inflation was the top concern for just 4% of survey respondents.

The top influencers were Alix Earle, Andrew Tate, and Selena Gomez. YouTube streamer and food/bev influencer Mr. Beast ranked No. 5.

The Food Institute Podcast

Click the play button above to listen to the episode.

How do you measure the financial efficiency of a fan-driven food business? Dr. James Richardson, owner of Premium Growth Solutions and author of Ramping Your Brand, joins The Food Institute Podcast to define these types of businesses and how they can succeed. Dr. Richardson pulls on historical and recent examples of these types of businesses, and what common threads contribute to their success.