I’ve never opened an article with scripture, but then again, I’ve never seen faith so dramatically tied into an organization’s vision delivered, in essence, it’s culture, than that of Chick-fil-A. Now, unless you’re in the south or disparate parts of the country, you may have not heard of this $4B in revenue “family business,” that’s never open on Sundays! But try their renowned chicken sandwiches once (my favorite is the chargrilled spicy with a large raison carrot salad and a lemonade) and you’ll be back!
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Dan Cathy, the company’s President and Chief Operating Officer since 2001, speak about customer experience. He has been working full-time for this great company since 1970. He often talks about having spent his entire life around Chick-fil-A, watching his dad, S. Truett Cathy, build an organization that is as much about people as it is chicken. From the first experience of walking into the meeting space, you notice him walking around and serving people in the audience – literally bringing them utensils, fresh orange juice, or a napkin they had forgotten. You can tell that he genuinely believes that regardless of his title, he actually works in Customer Service – and with more than 1,500 Chick-fil-A restaurants led by more than 60,000 team members, operators and corporate staff, he’s got a lot of customers to serve! This guy has a reputation of picking up trash in the parking lot of his restaurants with his senior executive colleagues!
Throughout the 60-minute session, he shared nuggets such as “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear!” Beyond financial performance, such as 2x the volume of their closest competitor at more than 80 percent freestanding locations, $1B in revenue in 2000 and $4B in revenue last year, which they’re methodical about, he also spoke a lot about a deeply rooted set of beliefs which guide the entire organization’s stewardship. He talked about their corporate purpose as one to Glorify God! He showed an internal training video of how everyone in every restaurant “has a story!” He reminded the audience of the meaning of the word restaurant as a place of restoration and how he felt the organization’s calling to be ministry through food.
In his examples you clearly see, hear, and feel a perpetual rewriting of the status quo. “If a client pays us $6 for a meal, we treat them like they’ve paid us $25.” That consistency is part of the infrastructure investment to deliver $9B in revenues, with customer service and experience as the arrowhead of their efforts. Dan and this amazing organization clearly see that consistency creates raving fans of the brand and its equity. They’re teaching teenagers civility: “carry the tray to the customers in your left hand, so with your right hand you can pull out the chair.”
In the past year, they’ve embarked on an extra service makeover, which includes fresh flowers at their “fast food restaurants,” fresh pepper grinders, and umbrella escorts on rainy days. All efforts to create “Tweetable Moments!” But they don’t stop at their human customers. Chicken nuggets, which are left at the end of the day and are not deemed for human consumptions are given to pet owners for their four-legged family members.
He referenced the scripture above as pivotal in their strategy to teach every one of the 60,000-team members to make Second Mile, Second Nature! Some would argue that it’s easier to get a job at the CIA than CFA (Chick-fil-A). Dan reiterated a core belief that what is in the business is a reflection of the leader including attitude and behavior and it absolutely impacts the rest of the organization. He carries a Bible and a smart phone as a reminder of battle tested, deeply rooted beliefs combined with modern day conveniences and the appropriate use of technology.
If you ever get a chance to hear Dan Cathy speak, take it. Otherwise, stop by a Chick-fil-A restaurant and experience their culture and amazing food, first hand! BTW, he gave out to a crowd of 100 senior executive attendees his cell number for us to try a new entre salad and then call him with our experience! Talk about second mile, second nature in action!
To learn more about Dan and the Cathy family, visit HERE.