One Mom's Reflection on the Legacy of Chick-fil-a founder S. Truett Cathy

S. Truett Cathy died this morning at the young age of 93, and with his passing our world lost a true gem. Mr. Cathy’s Chick-fil-a franchise has enriched my life as a mother and as a woman of faith tremendously, with their unwavering commitment to God and family — in that order. His company and it’s policies are more far-reaching than one might think, especially when you break down the impact they have on families like mine.  

“I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order.”

Chick-fil-a is our go-to fast-food choice, so inevitably my sons will ask to go there and it will be a Sunday. Each and every time I remind them the stores are closed on Sundays, and each and every time it opens up the opportunity to discuss God and how we honor him with our faith. “No honey, remember? Chick-fil-a is closed on Sundays so the workers have time to go to church and pray with their families just like we do.”

For us, church on Sunday isn’t an option it is a happy obligation — but not everyone we know makes that choice. For my children to be able to see our Christian faith being openly displayed by a business, one which has proudly maintained that standard since inception, is a blessing. They are just like us, they go to church too. Their dark stores and empty Sunday parking lots stand as a silent witness to God and worship in a world where visible displays are becoming harder and harder to find.

“You can do anything if you want it bad enough”

Truett Cathy grew up in the deep Depression, dirt poor. He struggled through high school and didn’t even go to college. And yet he rose from those humble beginnings to found what is currently the second largest fast-food restaurant in the country (and that’s with fifty-two days less per year to turn a profit).

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he came home and opened a small restaurant called the Dwarf Grill. There, he perfected his signature Chick-fil-a sandwich and the rest is history. He didn’t have deep-pocket financial backers or a trust-fund to pull from, he just had a hard work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit. What an amazing lesson for my children: that you can start off from nothing and achieve great success by simply working hard for it. 

“Food is essential to life. Therefore, make it good.”

In February, 2014, the chain announced they would commit to using antibiotic-free meat in their stores. That conversion, “from the hatchery to the processing plant,” should be complete within five years. They did this not to appease lefty liberals but because they want to serve the best quality to their customers and stand behind their commitment to good food.

This isn’t the cheapest option but it is by far the healthiest. As a crunchy conservative I do my best to limit the amount of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics my kids ingest, to minimize as much as possible the cumulative effect these will have over the years. To have a family-friendly, Christian, healthy option for the days when we are on the go is nothing short of amazing.

Aside from the chicken switch, Chick-fil-a offers a grilled chicken option that my kids actually like, fresh fruit as a fry substitute when most chains offer something pre-packaged, delicious, dye-free soups, and fresh-squeezed lemonade made with real food ingredients. Being able to keep my kids eating healthy while we are out is always a win.

“My Pleasure”

Mr. Cathy purposefully ingrained that simple, two-word phrase into the company lexicon as their branded response to any customer saying “thank you.” It isn’t just a simple “you’re welcome” but instead a joyful expression of delight at having served someone. And it’s polite.

How lovely to have a demonstration of simple manners every time I take my kids to Chick-fil-a! We’ve often discussed why the employees always respond with that tagline, and I relish the opportunity to teach not by what someone out in public did wrong, but by what they did right. It is so much easier as a parent to promote the behavior you want from your kids when they see it reflected in their community. Mr. Cathy may have started using the phrase for business purposes, but it is a fantastic reflection of the company as a whole. 

“My riches are my family and my foster children.”

The amount of energy Chick-fil-A spends in promoting family togetherness is remarkable, to say the least. They offer Mother/Son and Father/Daughter date nights, complete with tablecloths, flowers for the ladies, and a maitre d for check in. Most locations do weekly or monthly Family Nights, with crafts for the kids and games to play together. Even my favorite marketing strategy ever — the Mom’s Valet — helps to promote a family meal.

If you aren’t familiar with this option, Chick-fil-a will allow you to order your food in the drive thru, then employees will set it all up inside at a table for you to eat. They will ask if you need high chairs or booster seats, and will make sure you have everything from a placemat for each child to cutlery and condiments. For moms with small children (like me) this is a Godsend. Instead of holding onto two kids while I order and pay, than juggling a tray of food, drinks and small hands which need holding as we find a seat, I can order and pay from my car, then walk in to a table ready to eat.  I cannot count how many times we’ve used this option, and had it not existed we would have eaten in the car rather than at a table, facing each other, engaging in conversation. Such a small thing, with such huge implications. 

A love of God, a commitment to good eating, the use of common courtesy and encouraging family togetherness. — for me, this is the living legacy left behind by Mr. Cathy. Mr. He was a remarkable man of unending faith and conviction. He made the world better by having lived, and he will surely be missed by many.

RIP Mr. Cathy, and from my family to yours, thank you.

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