Chick-Fil-A
© AFP / Andrew Renneisen
The exterior of Chick-Fil-A in New York City
The third largest US fast food restaurant chain, Chick-fil-A, has more than doubled its annual sales since the company was boycotted by gay rights activists for donating to organizations that opposed same-sex marriage in 2012.

In 2018, the chain had $10.5 billion in total sales, which amounts to a 16.7% increase in a year, according to the Journal & Courier outlet. It makes the increase in Chick-fil-A's annual sales bigger than that of Starbucks, which is America's second largest restaurant chain behind McDonald's.

The exponential growth of Chick-fil-A's profits and the chain's expansion, by nearly 700 restaurants, remained unhindered despite the company facing a massive backlash in 2012 when sales totaled $4.6 billion. Back then CEO Dan T. Cathy, the son of founder and devout Baptist S. Truett Cathy, said that he supported traditional families.

Earlier, the firm found itself in hot water after supporting Christian organizations, including those that opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage and promoted gay conversion therapy.

"If you're eating Chick-fil-A, you're eating anti-gay," the LGBT blog Towleroad said in 2011 after Chick-fil-A decided to donate food to a marriage seminar conducted by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a group that supports traditional family values. The move faced much criticism, with gay rights groups from New York to Texas calling for a boycott of the fast food chain.

While the head of the company denied having an "anti-gay agenda," when asked about his support for traditional families, he said "guilty as charged."

"We are very much supportive of the family, the biblical definition of the family unit," he said in an interview to the Biblical Reporter. "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

Cathy's comments were rebuked by mayors of Boston and Chicago, with the former denying the firm entry to the city. Meanwhile, then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said that Chick-fil-A's views do not match Chicago values, accusing the company of being disrespectful of residents and neighbors.

Cathy said later that he regretted embroiling the family chain in this debate. Despite Chick-fil-A reportedly deciding to halt donations to anti-LGBT groups amid criticism, critics claimed that it continued to do so through its own charity foundation. One of its recent tax findings showed that it gave $1.6 million to the Missouri-based Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization that requires applicants to agree to a "sexual purity statement."