Photo: Chick-Fil-A

Growing up in Atlanta, there was no treat better than a crispy Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich. These days, when I go home to visit, things are a little trickier: I’m a vegetarian now and Chick-Fil-A’s doesn’t have a single meat-free entrée.

But soon that might change. Business Insider reported today that the fried chicken chain is exploring adding vegan options to their offerings, including plant-based meat.

Amanda Norris, executive director of Chick-fil-A’s menu, didn’t tell BI exactly what type of vegan options they were looking into, but did mention that “it might be some kind of alternative protein on a sandwich.”

This news is far from surprising. Restaurant chains large and small are taking note of the rising consumer demand for plant-based proteins and adding vegan products to their menus. Del Taco, Carl’s Jr., TGIFridays and A&W have Beyond Meat options, while White Castle, Qdoba, and Burger King have embraced the Impossible Burger. In fact, at this point any QSR that isn’t exploring more alternative meat products is being foolish.

Chick-fil-A is an interesting case since it likely won’t be using plant-based ground beef or burgers. The chain’s whole shtick is that it eschews beef in favor of chicken, so adding a product from, say, Impossible Foods wouldn’t make a lot of sense from a menu cohesion standpoint. Beyond Meat does make plant-based chicken strips, so we could see something like that, or like the vegan crispy nuggets from Seattle Food Tech.

The chain is clearly open to experimentation: they’re the first fast food restaurant to experiment with meal kits and also have two off-premises units focused 100 percent on catering, delivery, and carryout, and offer delivery via Doordash from 1,000+ locations. And yet they’re only now experimenting with something as simple as a vegetarian entrée.

I chalk this up to the fact that the chain has a very small, simple, and curated menu. But even though people come to Chick-fil-A for one thing, it’s getting harder and harder for nationwide chains to ignore consumer demand for realistic plant-based meat — and the increased revenues and new customers it brings restaurants. It seems that Chick-fil-A is finally waking up to the fact that it’s losing customers (like me) who are bypassing it in favor of other QSR’s that offer filling meat-free options.

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