Officials at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport say they've hatched a plan to satisfy fliers whose feathers were ruffled when McDonald's was booted from MSP: Chick-fil-A is set to arrive this spring.
The Southern fast-food chain, known for its hand-breaded chicken sandwiches, lemonade and customer service, will open on Concourse C in Terminal 1. The restaurant will be in the space formerly occupied by Godfather's Pizza and A&W and be the first full-scale Chick-fil-A in the state, airport officials say.
"We're really excited about it," John Greer, assistant director of concessions and business development for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, told the Star Tribune on Tuesday. "Their chicken is just delicious. Their sandwiches are phenomenal."
News of Chick-fil-A's spring arrival comes on the heels of McDonald's departure from MSP. Late last year, Delta Air Lines booted the chain's two locations from Concourse G, which it controls, because it wanted to refine the dining experience with higher-scale eateries. But the closures caused a stir with passengers who were used to getting their fries, Big Macs and Egg McMuffins before flights.
Since then, airport officials have been working to get McDonald's back at the airport. But Greer believes Chick-fil-A might be a good fix. Prices at Chick-fil-A are similar to McDonald's. A combo meal, which includes a chicken sandwich, waffle fries and a drink, is in the $6 range, comparable to a value meal at McDonald's.
"They offer a really high-quality product at an affordable price," said Greer, adding that "it will be an easy stretch over from [Concourse G] to get there."
The Atlanta-based chain has more than 1,600 restaurants nationwide, with just two small locations on university campuses in Minnesota. The company hopes its airport location will serve as a springboard for other Chick-fil-A openings in the Twin Cities. Chick-fil-A has hired John D. Rose & Associates, an Eden Prairie-based brokerage firm to help the company look at local real estate options.
Passengers said they were excited to hear about Chick-fil-A coming to MSP.
"From a food perspective, it's one of those that has that mystique," said Junius Ho, a 32-year-old sales and marketing director for Minneapolis-based OrthoCor Medical Inc. "You can't always have it, so when you do get a chance, you go after it."
Ho said he usually grabs two chicken sandwiches whenever he is at the Atlanta airport.
Chick-fil-A is a privately held business and part of its corporate purpose statement is "to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us."
The chain vows to never open on Sundays, to give workers time to rest and worship if they choose. In 2011, sales at Chick-fil-A were more than $4 billion in sales, up 13 percent from the previous year.
But some of Chick-fil-A's charitable contributions have gotten it into trouble. The company had donated free food to the Pennsylvania Family Institute, prompting any outcry from gay rights groups.
Dick Grones, founder of Cambridge Commercial Realty, said he believes the chain will do well here, regardless of its politics.
"The impact won't really be felt at the cash register," Grones said. "I think people think with their stomachs when it comes to food, than their political leanings."
Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712