Gen Zers claim to be very passionate about social justice. But it seems they’re even more passionate about crispy chicken nuggets and waffle potato fries.
A new survey of teens from Piper Sandler finds that their favorite restaurant is one that’s decidedly un-woke: Chick-fil-A. A whopping 15% of respondents picked the fast-food joint as their favorite place to eat, with the Christian-owned chicken chain even beating out Starbucks (12%) and Chipotle (7%).
You might not find this a huge surprise. Chick-fil-A chicken is really good, and the chain is known for its excellent customer service. I have never, ever, anywhere, seen a more efficient drive-thru system.
But don’t forget that American progressives have long castigated Chick-fil-A as “problematic” because in 2012, Dan Cathy, a top executive and the founder’s son, made public statements opposing same-sex marriage. The company also drew ire for the donations it made to a foundation that funded groups opposing same-sex marriage, such as the socially conservative Family Research Council.
Still, Chick-fil-A promised years ago to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender.” No one has ever credibly alleged that Chick-fil-A widely discriminates against gay customers or employees. And in 2019, it shifted its giving away from most of these more political groups and causes. While it still donates to faith-based groups, they are more community-focused than politically motivated.
Despite all this, the Chick-fil-A hate has continued, mostly from very-online progressives. “There’s no separating the business from the business owner,” an Esquire piece huffed last year. Chick-fil-A is “owned by a man with a hateful agenda,” and “too many people” don’t “question why it might be wrong to eat it.”
“Will you join me in pledging to NEVER eat at Chick-Fil-A, NEVER sleep on a My Pillow and NEVER listen to Kanye West?” one popular progressive account tweeted Tuesday.
But apparently Gen Z isn’t on board with the boycott. This is perhaps unexpected, given that Gen Z skews very progressive in its politics and that more than 20% of Gen Zers self-identify as “LGBTQ+,” per Gallup.
Evidently, Gen Zers aren’t willing to go through with a boycott if it means sacrificing that to-die-for signature Chick-fil-A sauce.
Even within the gay community — I myself am both gay and a member of Gen Z — Chick-fil-A is still widely consumed and, perhaps intentionally or somewhat ironically, worshipped online.
The natural instinct here is to laugh at the young left’s apparent lack of commitment to its stated principles and causes. After all, one cannot truly be too concerned about “hate speech” if you’re not even willing to give up an (admittedly delicious) spicy chicken sandwich over it. But humor and hypocrisy aside, this is actually a positive development.
Partisan boycott culture is a recipe for balkanization and strife that undermines the beauty of capitalism.
It’s one thing to boycott a company or product because of objections about its actual services or company practices. Yet it’s entirely another to deem some businesses off-limits because of the personal political views of their owners or executives.
One of the greatest things about capitalism is the way it enables people from very different walks of life with very different values to engage in mutually beneficial trade. It promotes social cooperation and harmony, since both the profit motive and our inherent consumerism push us toward buying the cheapest/crispiest chicken nugget, not the one sold by someone who looks or thinks like us. And working together, over time, helps us realize that we’re not as different as we initially thought.
But boycott culture, when rooted in political witch hunts, substitutes social justice for economic harmony — and threatens to tear our country apart if taken to its logical extreme.
We must reject ideologically motivated boycotts unless we want to end up in a balkanized America with Republican restaurants and Democratic diners. As Jonathan Merritt put it for The Atlantic, “I don’t care how my dry cleaner votes. I just want to know if he/she can press my Oxfords without burning my sleeves.”
So, sure, the fact that Gen Z can’t get enough Chick-fil-A is humorous and a tad hypocritical. But young people’s apparent willingness to separate politics and potato fries is really a positive sign for our country’s future.
Brad Polumbo is a journalist, YouTuber, TikToker and co-founder of BASEDPolitics.