Restaurant Chain Succeeds by Being Kind

Discussion
Aug 30, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


It seems as though it might have come right out of a Norman Rockwell painting or a Frank Capra movie. Chick-fil-A continues to grow and add to its legion of admirers and customers
by doing things that other fast food restaurants and retailers do not do.


One of the obvious differences is the chain’s policy of staying closed on Sunday. The company maintains it makes as much in six days as most others do in seven.


“We can outperform them because we teach our employees the importance to be kind to customers,” said Truett Cathy, the 85-year-old founder of Chik-fil-A. “Your customers become
cheerleaders for you and you have to do little advertising, they’re worth more than TV and radio.”


Mr. Cathy, reports The Associated Press, has always maintained people come before profits at Chik-fil-A and, in the process, profits are what he and other stakeholders
in the company have achieved.


The chain currently has 1,250 restaurants in 37 states, making it the 25th largest restaurant chain in the U.S. Revenues at the company have increased at a double digit rate
every year for the past 10 and the company is about to exceed $2 billion in sales for the first time in its history.


The company focuses on many small things to keep it distinct from other competitors in the fast food business. For example, employees are instructed to say, “My pleasure” when
customers thank them.


“It’s a small thing, but … in our business it’s very competitive, so if you can raise yourself above the norm … and improve customer relations, that’s going to be as beneficial
to the chain as ‘We need to sell more waffle fries,’ said Chik-fil-A spokesperson Don Perry. “Truett never says ‘Let’s sell more waffle fries,'” he added. 


Discussion Questions: Considering its success, why don’t more businesses follow the lead of Chik-fil-A? How would companies go about creating a new organizational
culture if they were interested in developing a more personal approach to how business is done?

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7 Comments on "Restaurant Chain Succeeds by Being Kind"


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Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

I have to disagree with many of the things which have been posted here. Chick-fil-A’s success is not about its religion or its mix. Instead, it is just about driving superior customer service. This is not news. There are many examples of companies like this that are incredibly successful; from high-end grocers like Wild Oats and Whole Foods, to niche restaurants. Differentiating the consumer by giving them better customer service than they get in other places is just great business sense. Sam Walton recognized this years ago when he insisted that all of his stores have a greeter in front. This set him apart from the competition and allowed him to deliver on better (and different) customer service in addition to lower prices. If more retailers were to follow this lead, where customers truly do come before profits, they would see the same success as Chick-fil-A!

Robert Craycraft
Guest
Robert Craycraft
14 years 5 months ago
I found the comment about employees responding to customers who thank them with a “My pleasure,” of interest. Yesterday I was in a hospitality-based focus group in the Orlando area that was addressing the decline of service in the USA in the past 15 years. One person noted that it wasn’t long ago that the CUSTOMER was thanked for buying something, whereas today it is more common for the customer to say “May I please?” buy the item from the clerk and then to thank them for selling it to them. Monday, on our way to the focus group, we noticed that at a Ranch1 location in the airport we weren’t even acknowledged when we did buy something (I don’t thank people for selling me something, personally), but all of us were greeted with silence, our change, and the coffee/food. Not a word. Chick-fil-A has a great product and wonderful staff, I make a special effort to eat there when I can ask I also support their closing on Sundays. Not a religious issue to… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 5 months ago

First and foremost, CfA’s food tastes great. Their proprietary product preparation and attention to quality keeps customers coming back (enough alliteration?). I love their Christian approach to business as well, lending additional meaning to “good taste.”

How can other businesses follow CfA’s lead without total immersion? In one of my businesses, customers are required to follow specific, easy, dietary instructions for a short period of time. But, some of them try to negotiate the guidelines: “Can’t we have just a little coffee?” “We’d like to have salty foods when we dine out.” Etc. Businesses trying to follow CfA’s model will inevitably try to negotiate, too. “How about great taste without great service?” “Can’t we just improve our service with a bunch of catch-phrases while sticking with our current recipes?” Or, “Do we have to be so Christian about everything?”

Aye, there’s the rub.

Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
14 years 5 months ago

One of the other things that is different about Chic-fil-A is that it is an unabashedly Christian company. For example, they support and recruit from a local Christian University. This has resulted in a group of employees with very similar core beliefs, who have a strong trust and respect for their senior management.

Chic-fil-A employees not only provide great customer service, they are also unified in the belief that they work for a better kind of company, one that is worth supporting. It is hard to beat a company that has employees who are passionate about both their customers and company.

The following is from their web site.

“Our official statement of corporate purpose says that we exist “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A. That’s why we invest in scholarships, character-building programs for kids, foster homes and other community services.”

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Sometimes it pays to go where the other guy isn’t. People want to work at Hobby Lobby and Chik-fil-A because they’re not open Sunday. Working on weekends is stressful. Stress enhances turnover. Turnover stresses the management as well as the remaining staff. Fast food restaurants and other retailers often suffer employee turnover well over 100% annually. If every publicly held retailer had to answer these 2 questions in its annual report, the chagrin would be felt coast to coast: (1) how many W-2’s did your company issue this year? and (2) how many paychecks did you issue the last pay period at the end of your fiscal year? For many fast food restaurants and other retailers the staff turnover ratio would be triple digit.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Can someone tell me how much money Chick-fil-A made last year? No one cares, right? That’s why Chick-fil-A can do what they do. There are many other businesses which operate with the same approach. We just don’t hear about them because they are not as big as Chick-fil-A. I’m proud to say many of my clients have a similar approach to business (although they don’t close on Sunday). Chick-fil-A is operated by nice people who care about people and money is not their first priority. Wall Street doesn’t like these kinds of businesses. If Chick-fil-A was a publicly held company, Wall Street would be demanding they open on Sunday, cut expenses to the bone, and hire a CEO who could sell off the company at top dollar to another group of mean people.

Steve Cannon
Guest
Steve Cannon
14 years 5 months ago

Chick-fil-A is successful because it follows business principles according to the Bible. They understand that being obedient to the Holy God has its rewards; both now and later. They expect God to keep His word. He does. Hard work and the Golden Rule are two of those principles. “Consider the Ant.” There are others. One of them is that “the things of God are hidden to the Natural Man.”

It is interesting that sometimes even if someone does not believe as the Bible teaches, yet follows the rules that are not hidden, they also may be successful. Thank you for the opportunity to share.

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