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Chick-fil-A franchisees must adhere to religious requirements

Chick-fil-A is among the pickiest corporations when it comes to choosing its franchisees.

And though the company has some of the lowest startup costs among fast-food franchises, it has some of the highest long-term costs. Franchisees also have to meet some of the most rigorous criteria in the industry.

So what would need to happen for Buffalo to get the Chick-fil-A its fans are clamoring for?

From the roughly 20,000 franchise requests received per year, Chick-fil-A said it moves forward with just 80 of them. Even then, that pool of candidates must compete for just a handful of store openings each year.

Qualifying for those positions is difficult. A franchise operator is required to work full time in their store and is allowed to own just one location, which limits profits. A franchisee may go through a vetting process of a year or more before being put through several weeks of training and ongoing development requirements.

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Franchisees also have to meet certain religious requirements. They must be involved in their churches and communities, agree to close their stores on Sundays to observe the Christian sabbath and will be expected to pray during meetings.

If a franchisee can jump through all of those hoops, the actual startup cost is low: just a $10,000 franchise fee. Other fast-food chains have franchise fees as high as $75,000 and require startup expenditures, liquid assets and net worth well into the millions of dollars. Chick-fil-A, on the other hand, handles startup costs itself, including securing real estate, building the restaurant and filling it with equipment and furnishings. It also doesn’t require franchisees to have a certain level of liquid assets or net worth.

Chick-fil-A’s long-term costs, however, are among the highest in the industry. Whereas other chains may take just 4 percent of a franchisee’s gross sales and another 10 percent or less for rent, Chick-fil-A takes 15 percent of sales and 50 percent of the remaining pretax profit.

But even if all of those pieces come together, it appears Western New York will have to wait a while before the region gets its first Chick-fil-A restaurant.

The company has opened its franchise market into New York City and Long Island, according to a map on its website, but it lists nothing specifically about Western New York.

“It’s important to know that we have been very strategic and intentional about our growth plans,” said Brenda Morrow, a company spokeswoman. “We don’t have any Buffalo locations to confirm at this time but are always looking forward to serving customers in new communities.”

The company, which has courted criticism for its stance against gay marriage, had $6 billion in sales in 2015.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com