Chick-fil-A distances itself from franchise owner charged with sex crimes

Chick-fil-A restaurant with an American flag in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Chick-fil-A restaurant with an American flag in Tulsa, Oklahoma. | Getty Images

Chick-fil-A, the popular fast-food restaurant whose corporate purpose seeks to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us” and “have a positive influence on all who come in contact” with the business, is distancing itself from one of its independent franchise owners accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl he met online.

The franchise owner, Stacy Lee Austin, 49, of Belmont, Ohio, is accused of driving 400 miles to abuse the teenager in her home in North Carolina on March 5, according to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, in Salisbury, cited by USA Today.

Investigators say Austin arranged to pick up the teenager in North Carolina on an unnamed social media app, but while he was in the child’s home he performed sexual acts with the teen, The Intelligencer said.

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The teenager’s father allegedly walked in on Austin inside his home and called 911 to report a residential break-in.

Stacy Austin, 49.
Stacy Austin, 49. | Police Photo

Investigators responding to the scene found Austin’s underwear in a bathroom trash can along with some of the child's clothes.

Austin later admitted to investigators that he engaged in sex acts with the teen. He was charged with a statutory sex offense with a child but indicated that he was worried about losing his job as the owner of a Chick-fil-A franchise.

When asked about Austin’s arrest, a Chick-fil-A spokesperson told NBC affiliate WCMH the company has “zero tolerance for the type of serious conduct alleged.”

“Stacy Austin currently is an independent franchise owner, but as the investigation and legal process continues, he will not be present in the restaurant,” the spokesperson said.

While KFC still remains much bigger than Chick-fil-A globally, Chick-fil-A has been leading KFC since 2012. Most of Chick-fil-A's restaurants are located in the South and the company has attracted a loyal following for its chicken sandwiches.

The company notes on its website that a part of its recipe for success involves not doing business on Sundays to give people time to worship.

"Our founder, Truett Cathy, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. He has often shared that his decision was as much practical as spiritual," said the company. "He believes that all franchised Chick-fil-A operators and their restaurant employees should have an opportunity to rest, spend time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so. That's why all Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays. It's part of our recipe for success."

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