Chick-fil-A's perception with quick-service restaurant consumers nationwide has taken a significant hit in most regions of the country, including the South where most of its restaurants are located, since president and COO Dan Cathy's perceived anti-gay remarks on July 16. This is according to YouGov BrandIndex's daily consumer perception research.
In the Midwest, Chick-fil-A's perception jumped up for a week and has since tapered off to where it was before the interview was published.
As the controversy has snowballed, the company's overall consumer brand health has dropped to its lowest levels since at least mid-August 2010. It also is the first time Chick-fil-A has sunk below the perception average of the top QSR restaurant chains.
Chick-fil-A was one of the top five best perceived QSR restaurant chains in the U.S. during the first half of this year, according to YouGov BrandIndex data.
YouGov BrandIndex's Index score is an average of key scores measuring quality, impression, value, reputation, satisfaction and willingness to recommend. All measurements were filtered for adults 18+ who have eaten at a QSR establishment in the past month. The measurement scores range from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.
On July 16, the day the Baptist Press published its Dan Cathy interview, Chick-fil-A's Index score was 65, 19 points above the Top National QSR Sector average score that day of 46.
Four days later, Chick-fil-A had fallen to a 47 score, three points below the Top National QSR Sector average score of 50. A week and a half later, Chick-fil-A had a 39 score compared to the Top National QSR Sector average score of 43.
YouGov BrandIndex respondents in the South took Chick-Fil-A from an Index score of 80 on July 16 to its current 44. Chick-Fil-A's biggest drop took place in the Northeast, where it went from 76 to 35, a difference of 41 points.
The Midwest was the only part of the country which drove Chick-Fil-A's perception higher, moving from a 45 score on July 16 to a 70 two days later, and then dropping back to where it was before the interview was published.
More bad news for Chick-fil-A
In the middle of this growing controversy, the Atlanta-based chain also has been sued for wrongful termination based on gender discrimination.
GLAAD reported last week that former employee Brenda Honeycutt was terminated by Jeff Howard, owner/operator of a Duluth, Ga., Chick-fil-A restaurant, so that she could be a "stay at home mother."
Prior to the termination, Honeycutt's job performance was satisfactory-to-above satisfactory. She was replaced by a male employee.
Her lawsuit outlines a pattern of similar discrimination against female employees who were terminated and replaced by male employees.
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