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Chik-Fil-A coming to Carlsbad
Chik-Fil-A is coming to Carlsbad, joining only a small number of fast-food restaurants in the city. Photo courtesy of Chik-Fil-A
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Chick-Fil-A coming to Carlsbad, fuels local ‘chicken wars’

CARLSBAD — Chick-Fil-A is coming to Carlsbad, fortifying its position in North County and ramping up local pressure in the so-called “chicken wars.”

The Georgia-based fast-food restaurant was approved for its fourth North County location on Feb. 22 after the Carlsbad City Council unanimously approved the chain’s project on Avenida Encinas. The restaurant will reside next to another fast-food giant, In-n-Out Burger.

The City Council’s unanimous approval of a Chick-Fil-A location was a rare move, as Carlsbad has very few fast-food restaurants — a purposeful move by city leadership for years.

However, the fast-food chain will have some limitations, such as no drive-thru service, which Carlsbad no longer allows, making Chick-Fil-A a stand-alone eatery.

“This has been years in the making,” said Carlos Arias, development manager for Chick-Fil-A. “I actually live in Carlsbad, so this one is personal for me.”

Currently, Chick-Fil-A has locations in Oceanside, San Marcos and Encinitas, plus 11 other restaurants in San Diego County.

Chik-Fil-A coming to Carlsbad
A rendering of a future Chik Fil A restaurant in Carlsbad. Courtesy rendering

As for the location, Esteban Danna, an associate planner for the city, said a 10,600-square foot office building will be demolished for a new 3,932-square foot facility to house Chick-Fil-A. Arias said the company plans to hire between 100-120 employees.

The only significant pushback from residents on the project involved traffic concerns, although plans are in place to address the estimated increase of 979 average daily trips on the surrounding street system.

Danna said a new traffic signal will be installed by the company at the driveways at the driveway in front of In-n-Out, while another driveway will be installed on the north end of the property in front of Chick-Fil-A.

Mitigation will also include crosswalks for pedestrians across the street in several business parks, Danna added.

Danna said one opposition letter, from Traffic and Mobility Commissioner Steve Linke, cited the project does not comply with the city’s Mobility Element and the Local Mobility Analysis report, which inadequately evaluated the pedestrian Multi-Modal Level of Service due to a gap on the sidewalk on the east side of Avenida Encinas.

Danna said staff confirmed the project complies with city standards regarding the Mobility Element and the traffic signal will address the concerns of the LMA.

“We have gotten a lot of customer requests from people in Carlsbad,” said Phil Rath of Rath Public Affairs, who worked with Chick-Fil-A on public outreach of the project. “We got a lot of positive feedback from the office park across the street.”

For the past several years, the fast-food chicken sandwich wars have been a growing phenomenon and a cult favorite among the public as Chick-Fil-A, Popeyes, Wendy’s, McDonald’s and others vie for chicken sandwich supremacy. The marketing battle has led to many fast-food businesses entering by pivoting and mobilizing their chicken offerings.

Some have been unexpected, such as Taco Bell, which has attempted to capitalize on the popularity of the Chicken Wars.

A 2021 Civic Science poll showed Chick-Fil-A leading the Chicken Wars over Popeyes by a 65%-54% margin, with Wendy’s in third at 51%.