We have been fortunate to have a business relationship with the Cathy family, whose patriarch, S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, died this week at the age of 93. Among the many things we learned was how one individual can go about establishing and growing a brand that truly creates a better world.
DBA Worldwide has been working with Chick-fil-A and for the Cathy family foundation, WinShape over the years to promote family time or the healing of families and community service. It’s funny. The organization has yet to ask us to promote the chicken.
The trademark decision made by Truett Cathy was to never open a Chick-fil-A on Sunday, so that employees could garner a well-deserved day of rest on the day most of them wanted it. And while some disagree with some of the beliefs by which Truett Cathy lived and did business, there’s no doubt that he was a pioneer – and became a case study– in elevating a brand beyond the mere products and services that it provides.
This became a bitter-sweet week, as we were excited to learn that our work in bringing these values to the Chick-fil-A Kid’s Meals program has been effective. In fact, Chick-fil-A is not only the highest grossing fast food restaurant in same-store sales. They are now the leading provider of kid’s meals in the U.S., passing McDonald’s in both categories. All of this while being closed on Sundays.
Truett Cathy’s biggest product innovation was the boneless chicken sandwich. But he also was one of America’s first business leaders to understand that many consumers are as concerned about a company’s story and values as they are about what it sells. Chick-fil-A certainly has benefited over the years from providing highly regarded products and great service in clean restaurants staffed by enthusiastic employees. There are no bigger fast-food fans than legions of Chick-fil-A regulars.
But many customers also were drawn to Chick-fil-A by the chain’s promotion of traditional values in various ways – and by Truett Cathy’s resoluteness in doing so. As a result, companies and brands around the globe have studied the Chick-fil-A business model and adapted Cathy’s methods to envelope and communicate the particular values that are important to them.
Truett Cathy also was an early proponent of the idea that character could and should lead to business success.
As he often said, “I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed. I have always encouraged my restaurant operators and team members to give back to the local community. We should be about more than just selling chicken, we should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve.”
And because those words and that business principle are even more relevant to the world today than in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant, one of Truett Cathy’s lasting legacies will be the impact of those beliefs.