Chick-fil-A on doing unto others

April 26, 2011

CEO Dan Cathy of the Chick-fil-A company has a new service model: the Sermon on the Mount.

"Here's the deal," Cathy announced recently at the second annual Imagination Summit in California:

All of us were created in God's image. Because we are created in God's image - [which] is to be treated with honor, dignity, and respect - we desperately in our deepest part of who we are...desire to be treated respectfully... And so any business person that has that insight retools their whole service experience around honor, dignity and respect...and will [have] people tweeting, facebooking...and you can have a cult brand.

Despite the recession, Chick-fil-A has reported double-digit sales increases in the last four years. According to Cathy, the company's business strategy is predicated not on maximizing end profits but on a desire to glorify God by being good stewards of their customers. Whatever else it is, this religious take on business isn't just a hindsight application of the prosperity gospel--for years, Chick-fil-A has been the only national fast-food chain that observes the sabbath.

Still, the faith rhetoric smacks of utilitarianism. "You don't have to be a Christian to work at Chick-fil-A," said company founder S. Truett Cathy (Dan's father) in 2007. "But we ask you to base your business on biblical principles because they work."

In 2002, Dan Cathy admitted that the never-on-Sunday policy, which was implemented back when his dad was also running the Dwarf House diner in Atlanta, soon became "the single best business decision [my father] ever made."

Describing the company's policies in terms of the family's Christian faith sounds like savvy business. But S. Truett Cathy grew up in America's first public-housing project, and he used to work as the (24-hour) Dwarf House's only cook. You can see why he might place a premium on treating people with dignity. By staying closed Sundays and giving everybody the day off, Chick-fil-A franchises miss out on an estimated $500 million of revenue annually.

The company's management employees receive impressive benefits, including access to extensive training and development programs. Headquarters even invites any employee interested in franchise ownership to visit and learn about the company. Employee turnover rate is only 3 percent among staff and unit operators.

These are impressive facts, but they might not be enough to earn Chick-fil-A top marks on labor issues. And earlier this year, a franchise operator's sponsorship of a marriage seminar led to accusations that the company is antigay. (Dan Cathy released a video statement on the matter.) Ethical-food advocates might argue that Chick-fil-A's carbon footprint, animal treatment and nutritional profile make it hard to argue that the company does well by either the environment or human beings.

But Chick-fil-A is ahead of its competitors. Last month, Environmental Leader issued a report lauding the company for piloting green building techniques. And the chain's advertising tactics are commendable: it scores points by amusing its viewers but not by defacing the competition. On the whole, I'd say Chick-fil-A is doing a pretty good job.


Christian Values under a National Microscope

When looking at major national fast food chains, it becomes difficult to gague who is beating whom in ethics.  Sure, Chik-fil-A might raise ethical questions regarding the treatment of animals, carbon emissions, and general concerns about the quality of mass-produced food, but they are certainly winning on their treatment of employees.  The Christian values the restaurant embodies are values that have proven themeslves successful in HR analyses in hundreds of fields - but rarely on a corporate level.  It takes guts to bring religion to a national spotlight.  I admire Cathy in his conviction and courage to persue what he believes works best.  

"Christian values" command that compassion, humility, and a willingness to serve govern a healthy life.  Whether you are a Christian or not, it becomes incredibly difficult to argue that the anthropological effects of practicing such values create discourse in business.  The food industry is, in fact, a service industry.  We expect compassion and humility.  How much better for the customer if those values are practiced by the employees on a genuine level!

Sure Chik-fil-A is not breaking any ground in many other ethically controversial areas, but I do applaud them for their customer service.  If it is the practice of Christian values which allows me to have that experience, then keep 'em comin!

Commend franchise

I commend this franchise for keeping it's values. By being closed on Sundays, it allows often low paid workers time to be with their families. What is wrong with that?


I recently ate at Chick-fil-A after being encouraged by the AFA. I ENJOYED every last bite and I’ll be back for more. I’m SO TIRED of the anti-family, anti-marriage, anti-morals, anti-God crowd. Keep away from me and my family!


Watch out! Me and my anti-family, anti-marriage, anti-morals, anti-God friends sit in our basements and plot ways to destroy your family. In fact, we also love to eat the chickens that were bio-engineered to be so mutated that they can't stand on their own legs and are riddled with tumors. It's so great to be pro-God and eat chicken that was brutally tortured from the hatch of the egg till slaughter. Praise the Lord. Don't forget that we sit up all night devising ways to destroy pro-God, chicken torturing families across Amerrrca. 

GLBTQ Try To Hurt Chick-fila

GLBTQ activists have placed Chick-fil-a in their crosshairs not because Chick-fil-a has been hateful to them but merely because the founders of Chick-fil-a don't believe in re-defining marriage (in accordance with clear scriptural teaching).  This, according to GLBTQ activists, makes them "hatemongers" and a proper target for boycotts, over-the-top accusations, etc. That's ridiculous, of course, but that's what any organization that tries to hold to Christian values gets to put up with these days. 

Chick-fil-a is an absolutely great organization to work for and provides a great product and service for the public.   


Why does this company want to hurt the common man by suing small businesses for use of commonly used words?

Sounds unchristian to me.