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Discount Diva: Chick-fil-A polarizes consumers

Samantha Christmann

Next time you’re at a party, mention that Chick-fil-A is opening its first local store and watch what happens.

I’ll bet you a Ted’s chicken sandwich it will be this: Some guests will high five, rave about their favorite menu item and tell you about that one time they drove to Erie, Pa., just to get their hands on a chicken biscuit. Other guests will shake their heads in disapproval, vowing never to visit the chain because of its founder’s public stance against same-sex marriage.

In 2018, a sandwich isn’t just a sandwich anymore.

The internet makes it easy for consumers to find out how companies use their profits and what beliefs their executives stand for. Consumers, led by millennials, care more than ever about the societal value of the products they buy, and want to support companies whose values align with their own.

Social media has made it simple for people to take the information they learn about a company, couple it with their opinion, and share it with every single friend, relative and acquaintance with a flick of their thumb.

Last week, data research firm Morning Consult released a list of the most polarizing brands in the country, based on more than 300,000 surveys that took into account respondents’ political affiliation.

There were no big surprises in the top 25; Trump Hotels, CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, Breitbart, MSNBC, Koch Industries, Starbucks.

It got me thinking about all of the brands Western New Yorkers would fight to the death over – or at least engage in a heated, public debate about on Facebook. And I’m pretty sure politics has nothing to do with them. Such as:

• Tops or Wegmans. Tops lovers and haters occupy two different ends of a spectrum and there is no in between. They believe Tops is either convenient and competitive or dirty and overpriced. Those same people, when asked about Wegmans, will have a directly inverse opinion. They’ll say it’s either too expensive and froufrou, with arrogant customers and staff; or it’s a friendly foodie mecca worth traveling miles for.

• Papa John’s. This landed at No. 21 on the list because its former CEO criticized athletes who protested police brutality during the national anthem at NFL games. But until a few years ago, the debate around here centered on whether that delicious buttery garlic dipping sauce outweighed what some consider the overall cardboard-and-ketchup essence of the pizza. Also, who orders national chain pizza in Western New York?

• Anchor Bar vs. Duff’s. It’s not just the long-standing rivalry between the two restaurants that gets Buffalonians all riled up. A brawl-within-a-brawl will break out about which corner wing joint has better wings than either of these two places.

• Buffalo Wild Wings. There are two kinds of people: those who hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings, and those who will physically fight you for even suggesting Buffalo Wild Wings as a viable hangout option. Now that two more of the national chain’s locations have closed, you can guess which contingent is larger.

• Walden Galleria. A mall is a mall, right? You are wrong, and there are at least 60 people waiting in the comments section to tell you how wrong you are, snowflake. Depending on who you ask, the Galleria is either an upscale retail sanctuary, or a cavernous, sprawling wasteland filled with rowdy teenagers about to get into a gang fight at the Regal.

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