Chick-fil-A has clarified its use of the term "community," calling it a "poor choice of words" after backlash online over a tweet that some people thought referenced a black man's race during a conversation about adding spicy chicken nuggets to its permanent menu.
"The response was a poor choice of words but was not intended in any way to be insensitive or disrespectful," a spokesperson told "TODAY" in a statement. "We often use the term 'community' in a broader sense to talk about places where we operate restaurants and serve the surrounding community."
The row was triggered in a response to a tweet from a user profile of a black man named Don complaining in the Friday tweet that the fast food giant had "grilled spicy deluxe" on the menu "but still noooo spicy nuggets."
Chick-fil-A responded: "Your community will be the first to know if spicy items are added to the permanent menu, Don!"
That response appeared to set off a firestorm of replies from people who took offense at the suggestion that Chick-fil-A was possibly stereotypically referring to the black community. Many users replied using a variety of memes asking the company to explain the tweet.
Other Twitter users pointed out that Chick-fil-A had referenced the term "community" in other responses before and that the company was merely trying to make the customer "feel heard and special."
A screenshot of a Chick-fil-A tweet from August explaining that the company is currently experimenting with spicy items in different markets around the country shows the company again using the word "community" in response to a question from a white Twitter user.
The sandwich — a lighter, grilled version of its spicy chicken sandwich — features grilled chicken marinated in a spicy seasoning served on a toasted multigrain brioche bun with Colby jack cheese, lettuce and tomato.
"We've heard loud and clear from our guests that they want the Grilled Spicy Deluxe Sandwich back on the menu," said Leslie Neslage, director of menu and packaging at Chick-fil-A. "It's my favorite seasonal sandwich, and for those trying it for the first time, I suggest pairing it with our cool and creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce to balance the sandwich's heat. You won't be disappointed by the flavor combination."
The company's new Autumn Spice Milkshake will also be added to the Chick-fil-A menu nationwide from Sept. 12 through Nov. 12.
"Guests love our milkshakes, especially our seasonal flavors, so we are excited to introduce the perfect treat to welcome the fall season," Neslage said. "We tested the Autumn Spice Milkshake last October in Salt Lake City, and we received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback which inspired our decision to launch this new milkshake nationwide. We're eager for our Chick-fil-A milkshake enthusiasts to try the Autumn Spice Milkshake this fall!"