An inside look at Chick-fil-A’s business empire
Chick-fil-A ambassador Trudy Cathy White discusses her mother’s influence on the brand and the spirit of the food chain.
Since the opening of its first diner in Hapeville, Georgia, known as the “Dwarf Grill” in 1946, the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A fast-food juggernaut has considered philanthropy to be part and parcel of its for-profit restaurant business model.
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“I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order,” said the late S. Truett Cathy, the founder and inspiration behind the chicken-sandwich brand hailed and feted by millions of raving fans.
"We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed,” he once wrote. “I have always encouraged my restaurant operators and team members to give back to the local community. We should be about more than just selling chicken, we should be a part of our customers' lives and the communities in which we serve."
My friend, Mark Hufford, who operates two Arkansas-based Chick-fil-A restaurants, took Cathy’s personal philosophy about generosity seriously, launching a separate non-profit organization in 2017 to help fight local hunger.
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“Feed Bentonville” is funded from the profits of Hufford’s two restaurants in the towns of Bentonville and Rogers. Bentonville, Ark., is home to Walmart, the retail giant founded by Sam Walton.
In the last three years, “Feed Bentonville” has donated thousands of meals to hungry children and their families, in addition to partnering with local charities and individuals to spearhead food drives to help those most in need.
The corporate office of Chick-fil-A has long modeled Cathy’s passion for giving, establishing a foundation and contributing millions of dollars each year to causes that strengthen marriages, encourage and equip parents to be better moms and dads – and help improve the lives of children of all races and creeds through education and character development.
I recall talking with Mark some time ago about his efforts in Arkansas, how he would arrive early and depart late, working 6 days a week, all the while keeping a smile.
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He told me about one of his regular customers who one day pulled him aside and said, “Do you know what you’re doing here?” Perplexed, Mark jokingly replied, “No, Jim, I have no idea.”
Looking at him straight in the eye, Jim responded with great sincerity, “You are changing the world, one chicken sandwich at a time.”
Taken aback by such an audacious and seemingly hyperbolic statement, Mark prayerfully pondered his friend’s admonition and concluded he wasn’t too far from the truth.
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“I believe, we have to care more about our community, our guests, and each other as a Chick-fil-A team, instead of just ‘What’s in it for me?’” he reflected.
“I believe, that a sincere smile and a genuine “My Pleasure!” can not only make a nice parting comment, but it can make a person’s dreary and grey day, suddenly sunny and warm. I believe, that paying people a living wage, treating them as leaders, and expecting great things from them, releases the incredible potential that lies in every person we hire.”
As for his commitment to causes beyond his customers and financial bottom line, Mark sees charitable endeavors as an extension of his responsibilities to serve the greater good.
“If we invest in our community by giving back and supporting those who have less, than we don’t just make a buck – we make a difference,” he said. “And yes, I really do believe, that we can change the world, one chicken sandwich at time.”
Paul J. Batura is a writer and the author of seven books, including, “GOOD DAY! The Paul Harvey Story.” He can be reached on Twitter @PaulBatura or by email at [email protected].
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