Chick-fil-A's Dan Cathy says in a new interview with Chief Executive magazine that the company’s faith-centric approach to business has been key to its success.
The magazine noted that Cathy’s father, Truett, closed the restaurant on Sundays before handing the reins to Dan, who took over as CEO in 2013. Dan Cathy's son Andrew became CEO in 2021.
Chick-fil-A's faith-centric mission, Dan Cathy said, has been key to a successful CEO transition. He serves as chairman of the board.
"At Chick-fil-A, we are very grounded on our corporate purpose, to be a purpose-driven organization," Cathy told Chief Executive, a magazine for CEOs and public company board members. "That purpose is defined in the statement that we're here to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that's entrusted to us and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.
"We want to impact people’s lives, we want to be a good steward of what we’ve been entrusted with," Cathy added. "We're not going to take any of this with us. We only have it for just a moment in time, so let's be a good steward of it. And then, ultimately, let’s acknowledge our Creator. Let's have a sense of humility, let’s have a teachable spirit, let's be willing to be submissive, all of which we learn in our faith experience to honor the Lord and seek to honor him in all that we do. That's the baton exchange for society, for culture, for a business, for an enterprise."
Chick-fil-A stands out in the restaurant business, Cathy said, partially because it draws inspiration from upscale companies. For example, he noted, Truett Cathy borrowed the phrase "my pleasure" from a Ritz-Carlton.
"[W]e decided that we wanted to differentiate Chick-fil-A against our competition, sustain competitive advantage if we could build it on the uniqueness of the quality of the service that was built on a Ritz-Carlton platform," Cathy said. "So we went to fresh flowers in all our restaurants. We put pepper grinders in all our restaurants. … And we even upgraded our service in the dining room from a janitorial service to more of a host and hostess style service.
"... I love the term 'restaurant.' It’s a French word – it means a place of restoration," Cathy said. "When we have these poignant conversations with thoughtful leaders that inspire and challenge, they will always take us to a place that we’ve never been before. My whole view of our business, our industry, really our ministry to society, was dramatically elevated just in that one definition, that we're here to help restore people's lives. They're in difficult circumstances. They've got challenges going on at home, challenges going on at school, challenges going on at work. But when they come through that Chick-fil-A drive-through or walk in our restaurant, we have an opportunity to give them a word of encouragement and positive affirmation. That's what we learn when we hang out with thought leaders, people who are really outstanding in their respective fields."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Scott Olson/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.