Chick-fil-A Sundays: New York wants the restaurant open

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Will New York force Chick-fil-A to open on Sundays?

December 22, 2023 -

FILE -People line up to order fast food from a Chick-fil-A restaurant at the Iroquois Travel Plaza rest stop on the New York State Thruway in Little Falls, New York, on Friday, June 30, 2023. New York lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require restaurants in state highway system rest areas to operate seven days a week, a measure apparently aimed at interfering with a policy at the fast food chain Chick-fil-A of staying closed on Sundays. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

FILE -People line up to order fast food from a Chick-fil-A restaurant at the Iroquois Travel Plaza rest stop on the New York State Thruway in Little Falls, New York, on Friday, June 30, 2023. New York lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require restaurants in state highway system rest areas to operate seven days a week, a measure apparently aimed at interfering with a policy at the fast food chain Chick-fil-A of staying closed on Sundays. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

FILE -People line up to order fast food from a Chick-fil-A restaurant at the Iroquois Travel Plaza rest stop on the New York State Thruway in Little Falls, New York, on Friday, June 30, 2023. New York lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require restaurants in state highway system rest areas to operate seven days a week, a measure apparently aimed at interfering with a policy at the fast food chain Chick-fil-A of staying closed on Sundays. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

Chick-fil-A is one of the most profitable companies in their industry, with the average non-mall-based franchise generating $8.7 million in sales each year. By comparison, the typical McDonald’s generates $3.7 million per year. Overall, it is the third-largest restaurant chain in the country, and all of this despite their famous stance of only being open six days a week.

Now a new bill in the New York State Assembly is trying to change that by forcing Chick-fil-A—or at least the locations along their highways—to stay open every day.

As the bill’s authors argue, “While there is nothing objectionable about a fast food restaurant closing on a particular day of the week, service areas dedicated to travelers is an inappropriate location for such a restaurant. Publicly owned service areas should use their space to maximally benefit the public. Allowing for retail space to go unused one seventh of the week or more is a disservice and unnecessary inconvenience to travelers who rely on these service areas.”

Assemblyman Tony Simone, who is one of the bill’s sponsors, put it a bit more bluntly: “You know, we get hungry when we’re traveling. We may not like our brother-in-law or sister-in-law’s cooking and wanna get a snack on Christmas Eve. . . . To find one of the restaurants closed on the thru-way is just not in the public good.”

Simone went on to add, “The Thruways are meant to serve New York travelers first. And I think it’s ridiculous that you’re able to close on Sunday—one of the busiest travel days of the week.”

While many would have responded to such charges in anger, to this point Chick-fil-A has seemed content to let the process play out and wait for the bill to force a conflict rather than to seek one out.

Fortunately, it looks as though it won’t come to that.

Chick-fil-A has already signed a thirty-three-year contract as part of a $450 million project to build twenty-seven service areas along the highway. Moreover, the project was funded without any toll or tax dollars, making it unclear how much say the state could actually have on which restaurants are placed in the stations and how those restaurants are run. And even if the bill becomes law, it stipulates that it would apply to future contracts rather than existing ones.

Couple those details with the fact that each of these locations includes other restaurants that are open seven days a week and it looks like Chick-fil-A is likely to remain closed on Sundays for the foreseeable future.

However, I bring this story up today less because the potential plight of hungry New Yorkers warrants our consideration than because the way that Chick-fil-A has handled this and other controversies offers us a helpful reminder of what it looks like to stand for Christ in a way that honors our Lord without compromising our Christian principles.

“Seek the welfare of the city”

One of the most important, yet difficult, aspects of being a Christian is the idea that Jesus has called us to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14–16). Yet, this approach to our interactions with the culture around us was not unique to Jesus. Rather, it was largely a continuation of the call God had given the Jews as far back as the exile.

In Jeremiah, for example, the Lord instructed his people to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lᴏʀᴅ on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). It was only a few verses later that God would continue his instruction with one of the most famous promises of Scripture: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lᴏʀᴅ, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

This command was given, in large part, because a false prophet named Hananiah had claimed that God would overturn Babylon’s rule and bring the exiles home within two years. In response, the Lord declared Hananiah to be a liar and promised that he would die within the year (Jeremiah 28).

To some extent, however, the damage had been done. Those in exile and those who would soon join them understandably longed for the false prophet to be correct and for their stay in that foreign land to be brief. Yet God understood that they could not accomplish his will and grow as they needed to if they approached their time in Babylon with an eye to the past or the future rather than the present. So he sent Jeremiah to correct them, and his words should continue to guide us even today.

“The way of the exile”

You see, like the Jews in Babylon, God has not called us to simply bide our time until we get to heaven. Rather, we should seek the welfare of our city and embrace the fact that, at least on a day-to-day basis, being exiles in America—or in whichever country God has placed you—should look very similar to being full citizens of that country.

At the same time, though, we must never forget where our true allegiance should reside. Moreover, we should not be surprised when remaining faithful to our God in heaven brings us into conflict with those who would seek to take his place of influence here on earth.

We see that contrast lived out particularly well in the story of Daniel and his friends who, as Tim Mackie and Jon Collins describe, “would serve Babylon, seek its well-being, but their loyalty was always to God. . . . This is what Jeremiah was envisioning. The way of the exile is a combination of loyalty and also subversion.”

So as we wrestle with what it means to seek the welfare of our nation without compromising our loyalty to God, we can find guidance in the examples of people like Daniel (Daniel 6), his friends (Daniel 3), or even companies like Chick-fil-A to help us embrace the “way of the exile” as we seek to honor God in the midst of the foreign lands we call home.

How can you follow their example today?

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