Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People by S. Truett Cathy. Looking Glass Books. 200 pages. 2002
There may be no organization I respect more than Chick fil-A. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick fil-A, who died in 2014, writes that the lesson of his life is to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and that the history of Chick fil-A is a series of unexpected opportunities. When they responded to them, they often found themselves richly blessed. To take advantage of unexpected opportunities, you must leave yourself available. These opportunities almost always carry with them the chance to be a faithful steward and to influence others positively.
He tells his life story beginning with being born in Eatonton, Georgia in 1921. His nearly destitute parents left the rural life for better opportunities in Atlanta when Truett was three. His father sold insurance policies and collected premiums, but never made enough from that work to support his family. The Depression and his inability to support his family financially would affect him deeply. He was very hard on his family and seemed to take joy in lashing out at his wife with his tongue. Truett did not have a good relationship with his father, with neither of them ever telling the other that they loved them. As a result, his mother, a hard worker, took in boarders. Years later, Truett would use her concepts of marinating and cooking chicken when he developed the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.
Truett began selling Coca-Colas door to door when he was eight years old. He would later have a paper route, which he maintained until he went into the Army. It was with his paper route that he first realized the importance of taking care of the customer, something that helped him when he got into the restaurant business.
After World War II, Truett and his brother Ben opened a restaurant called the Dwarf Grill (later renamed the Dwarf House) in 1946. From the beginning, the brothers chose to close on Sundays so that they could attend church, where Truett would also teach thirteen-year-old boys in Sunday School, something he would do for many years. He writes that the key to their success was their commitment, indicating that when we’re fully committed, strange and unusual things happen. Sadly, Ben and his other brother Horace, would die in a plane crash in 1949.
Truett would marry Jeannette, who had a positive impact on his and their three children’s spiritual lives.
A second Dwarf House would burn down. After that, Truett would come up with a secret recipe for his famous chicken sandwich, which was initially sold through other restaurants. Later, concerned about the consistent quality of the sandwiches, Truett would open his first Chick-fil-A restaurant, in a shopping mall in 1967. Their first standalone restaurant opened in 1986 and opened licensed restaurants on college campuses, business, hospitals, etc. in 1992. Chick-fil-A is now one of the largest privately-owned restaurant chains in the country.
He discusses the “loyalty effect” that has been created through a unique relationship with the Chick-fil-A operators. Chick-fil-A’s Corporate Purpose is:
To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.
To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.
It was interesting to read about the successful 1995 billboard advertising campaign that introduced the Eat Mor Chikin Cows, that are now so associated with the organization.
Below are some of the philosophies or principles that make Chick-fil-A such a successful and respected organization:
- One of the most important principles Chick-fil-A lives by is that the family of the operators must come first.
- Loyalty begins with trust. Truett’s policy has always been to select trustworthy people, and then trust them.
- Success in any relationship or endeavor begins with trust. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you trust the people around you and they trust you.
- The most important job an operator has is selecting their people.
- When we hire, we always look for people who work well with others. Work habits and history are important.
- Most people feel that this is more than just a job. They feel either a divine call or the satisfaction of a desire to make a difference in the world. They feel a sense of significance.
- A positive attitude is important.
- Everyone from the operator to the newest hire must be willing to do any job in the restaurant: prepare food, wash dishes, mop floors, clean restrooms.
- Customers don’t want surprises. We give them what they expect when they come in – consistent quality.
- It is when we stop doing our best work that our enthusiasm for the job wanes. We must motivate ourselves to do our very best and by our example lead others to do their very best.
- To continue making a positive impact on the people around us, we must avoid complacency is all aspects of our lives.
Throughout the book, Truett shares many interesting stories. He is passionate about his work with foster children and the WinShape Centre. Sprinkled throughout the book are testimonies from several Chick-fil-A operators (store owners) about the principles of the organization that impact the day to day operation of their restaurants.