There is no organizational culture I respect more than that of Chick Fil-A. I have eaten at numerous Chick Fil-A restaurants across the country, gotten to know our local Operator, read about their culture from Ken Blanchard and Patrick Lencioni, and read books by Chick Fil-A insiders Mark Miller, Truett Cathy, Dee Ann Turner and Steve Robinson.
When you go into a Chick Fil-A quick service restaurant anywhere in the country you will not be greeted with replies of “No Problem” or “No Worries” from their employees. No, you will always be greeted with “It’s My Pleasure”. What a difference that is! It’s an organizational culture that drives this difference, and its why Chick Fil-A is always spoken of so highly by leadership experts.
But what is it that makes Chick Fil-A unique among its competitors? And what can other organizations learn from them? After all, in 2017, the average Chick-fil-A freestanding restaurant had sales 70 percent higher than the average McDonald’s location and four times that of an average KFC location. And that’s while also being closed on Sundays.
Here are 6 things that I believe make the difference for Chick Fil-A:
- A Biblical Foundation. Steve Robinson writes in his book Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows, and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand that Chick-fil-A is built on biblical values and principles that were fundamentally rooted in its founder and that play out through a business that serves and values people and tries to honor all.
The organization’s corporate purpose and their “why”, is:
“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 into contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Robinson tells us that in their prayer time before each executive committee meeting, the leaders often spent more time praying for one another and our families than they did for the business. Who wouldn’t want to work in an organization like that?
All Chick Fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays. This is a day set aside for all who were part of Chick-fil-A to rest, be with family, and worship, if they so chose.
- Generosity. Chick Fil-A’s founder Truett Cathy believed that every dollar that flowed through Chick-fil-A belonged to God, and they were to be stewards of it. That point of view allowed him to be both generous and thrifty (eventually the organization would become debt free). The organization also tithes, with charitable giving of about 10% of corporate profits.
- Servant Leadership. Dee Ann Turner in her book It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture, writes that Cathy practiced servant leadership (before it was such a trend to do so) and led according to biblical principles, including their “Second Mile Service” from Matthew 5. Chick Fil-A uses the SERVE leadership model, which I learned about years ago in Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller’s excellent book The Secret.
- Hiring. Robinson writes that Operator selection is the most important decision made at Chick-fil-A. Truett Cathy in his book Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People: Doing Business the Chick-fil-A Way, goes on to state that the most important job an Operator has is selecting their people. Turner writes that Chick Fil-A is diligent about making sure that they select the right people for their organization. They select based on character, competency and chemistry. In selecting leaders, she states that a good question to ask is “Would you want your children to work for this person?” Their stringent selection processes help result in their low employee and leadership turnover rates. Robinson writes that if you were going to be a part of Chick-fil-A, there was no reason for you to ever go anywhere else in your career.
- Remarkable Service. Chick Fil-A’s mission is to “Be REMARKable.” They want every customer’s experience to be remarkable, to leave an above-average, positive impression. A few ways in which they differentiated themselves from other fast food restaurants was by delivering food to the customer’s table, providing drink refills and offering to remove their trash from their table. All Chick Fil-A restaurants that I have been in have been clean and in good repair. And of course, saying “My Pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome” or “no problem” whenever a customer thanks them makes a big difference.
- Operational Excellence/Consistency. All of the food sold by Chick Fil-A is prepared daily in their restaurants. My wife Tammy and I eat out a lot. When we go to a favorite restaurant, we expect consistency, meaning that our favorite meals will be prepared the same each time we order them. Truett Cathy wrote “Customers don’t want surprises. We give them what they expect when they come in – consistent quality”. You can go to a Chick Fil-A restaurant anywhere in the country and get the same consistently excellent food and service.
These are 6 things that I feel have made the Chick Fil-A culture unique, and have resulted in their success. What would you add to the list?
While you’re thinking about that, I’m going to grab me a spicy Chick Fil-A chicken sandwich, waffle fries and a vanilla milkshake, and of course, some Chick Fil-A sauce.