Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A poised to be third-largest chain in the US by year’s end

No. 3 spot means it will beat out Subway and Taco Bell, bested only by McDonald’s and Starbucks

People aren’t just eating  more chicken these days, they are eating a lot “mor chikin.”

Because of that, Atlanta's favorite fast-food restaurant, Chicki-fil-A, is poised to become the third-largest chain in the United States by the end of 2018, according to Kalinowski Equity Research.

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McDonald's held the top spot in 2017 with U.S. systemwide sales of $37.6 billion, and Starbucks Corp.  was No. 2 with $17.65 billion in U.S. sales, reported.

According to Business Insider, people have been predicting Chick-fil-A's rise for quite some time, but initial expectations said it wouldn't happen until 2020. Analyst Mark Kalinowski, founder, president and CEO of Kalinowski Equity Research, updated his forecast in August, however, saying it likely will happen by the end of 2018 or early 2019.

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“We have long pointed out that Chick-fil-A is the restaurant competition with which McDonald’s U.S. should most concern itself – and by extension, investors should too,” Kalinowski wrote. “But this goes beyond McDonald’s.”

Chick-fil-A sales increased by 14.2 percent — the equivalent of $1.1 billion — in 2017, exceeding $9 billion, Restaurant Business reported. Sales were up 15.5 percent in 2018 as of July, the trade publication reported. Restaurant Business cited Technomic data that indicates Chick-fil-A is growing faster than any other brand.

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Chick-fil-A was No. 7 in 2017, meaning it will leap over Wendy’s (No. 6), Burger King (No. 5) and Taco Bell (No. 4) to knock Subway out of the No. 3 spot.

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Kalinowski pointed out that other chains should be worried, because Chick-fil-A has plenty of room to grow. As reported, "as of March 2018 Chick-fil-A only had 11 restaurants in New York, a state with more than 19 million residents, according to Kalinowski. Other states, including Massachusetts, Ohio and New Jersey, could also add locations, and market share at other chains' expense."

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As popular as Chick-fil-A is, the company is not without controversy. Earlier this month, Rider University removed Chick-fil-A from a survey of dining options "based on the company's record widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ community." The fast-food chain was included in previous surveys.

In a statement released the same day, Chick-fil-A responded: “We have no policy of discrimination against any group, and we do not have a political or social agenda. More than 120,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand.”

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