Which Fast-Food Chain Is the Most Religious?

Fast food chain Chick-fil-A is about its religious ties. Photograph by Rich Addicks/The New York Times via Redux

According to the Gospels, Jesus fed the multitude with just five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. The Bible says nothing about chicken tenders or animal fries, but perhaps the story inspires devout entrepreneurs to enter the fast-food business all the same. There is indeed an inordinate number of outspoken evangelists running restaurant chains.

Chick-fil-A has had to backtrack some since its president, Dan Cathy, told Baptist Press that the company’s operations are “based on biblical principles” and supports “the traditional family.” The Atlanta-based company issued a statement on July 19 that it treats everyone with respect regardless of sexual orientation or gender and will “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

Chick-fil-A is not the first fast-food chain with religious ties. Domino’s Pizza used to hold mass in a conference room and In-N-Out Burger prints citations of Bible passages on its packaging.

While the chicken restaurant is taking a lot of heat, Father Gerald Cavanagh, a business professor at the Roman Catholic University of Detroit Mercy who has written about religion and business, says studies show companies with religious ties tend to have better values and working environments. Any manager “has the right to have a point of view, but as a businessman, he has to keep an eye on stakeholders,” Cavanagh says. They risk alienating consumers and must be careful not to discriminate on the basis of religion.

Here’s a rundown of some of America’s openly God-fearing fast-food companies:

• Closed Sundays. Good for the church, bad for customers.
• “[We are] based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us,” said Dan Cathy, who is chief operating officer as well as president, to Baptist Press. And those rumors about holding traditional views on marriage? “Well, guilty as charged,” he said.
• Chick-fil-A asks operator license applicants about marital status and involvement in community, civic, social, church, and professional organizations, reported Forbes in 2007.
• Avid customers are evangelical about their food.

In-N-Out Burger
• Has printed quotes of Bible passages on cups, wrappers, and other packaging since the 1980s.
• These quotes were first printed while Rich Snyder, son of the husband-and-wife founders, was president. He was a born-again Christian.
• Company once made a Christmastime radio commercial asking listeners to let Jesus into their lives, alongside the company’s jingle.

Domino’s Pizza
• The company’s Catholic founder Tom Monaghan, who sold Domino’s in 1998, also founded the Ave Maria Foundation and donated millions of his own funds to the organization. He was a staunch advocate of conservative and pro-life causes.
• Monaghan hired a Catholic priest as corporate chaplain to say mass each morning in a conference room off the Domino’s headquarters cafeteria, reported Nation’s Business in 1986. Tim McIntyre, a spokesman, says the company no longer has a corporate chaplain.

Carl’s Jr.
• The late founder Carl Karcher personally funded Catholic charities and opposed abortion and gay rights. His tradition of starting meetings with a Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer carries on today.
• Current Chief Executive Andy Puzder, also a Catholic, was a close friend of Karcher. They shared “deep religious convictions,” reported the Orange County Register in 2008.
• Carl’s Jr. ran an animated commercial in 2011 featuring fictional deity “Hamblor,” god of hamburgers. The agency behind the ad? David&Goliath (seriously).

Every potato chip company
- O.K., they’re not fast-food chains, but why else is Jesus always manifesting himself in our crisps?

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