ATLANTA Chick-fil-A restaurants visits have increased by 2.2 percent in the third quarter, apparently driven by those supporting the restaurant in the face of criticism over the issue of gay marriage.
Research specialist Sandelman & Associates reports that across the board from consumer use to market share to ad awareness Chick-fil-A's numbers were up in the July-September period, a span which includes Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in which hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the restaurant Aug. 1. USA Today and several other national outlets reported the data.
The appreciation day was a way for Chick-fil-A's supporters to speak out in light of the criticism the restaurant was receiving after its president, Dan Cathy, defended the biblical definition of marriage.
Jeff Davis, president of Sandelman & Associates, said the controversy was "something that brought Chick-fil-A to the forefront of peoples' minds."
"There was a lot of talk that this would hurt Chick-fil-A, but it actually helped the brand," Davis told the newspaper. The restaurant broadened its regular customer base in 28 of 35 media markets, Davis said.
Sandelman surveyed more than 30,000 fast-food customers and found that Chick-fil-A's market share was up .6 percent and its ad awareness up 6.5 percent.
It is an "unusual situation," Davis told ABCNews.com, for a company to struggle in the public relations realm and to come out ahead in support.