My Brush with the Legacy of Truett Cathy
No, I never actually met S. Truett Cathy. But on the way to the airport from an adoption conference in the Atlanta area, Tony Pillstrom and I got sufficiently turned around and hungry that we found ourselves cruising through Hapeville, Georgia in search of a fast food dining establishment. The name of the town meant nothing to either of us, but we were about to encounter history.
As we were contemplating our dining choices, we saw a Chick-Fil-A to our left. But not the usual Chick-Fil-A. No, something was different about this one. Pulling into the parking lot, we saw what looked like a subtitle: Dwarf House. Still, that meant nothing to us.
We entered to restaurant to find that it looked nothing like any Chick-Fil-A we had ever seen, and we had seen plenty of insides of Chick-Fil-A’s. This one looked more like a diner, and we soon discovered that the menu reflected a full-scale diner, as well. I couldn’t bring myself to order beef at a Chcik-Fil-A restaurant, though, so I ordered the chicken.
In the time between the waitress taking our order and our food’s arrival, we wandered around the restaurant and looked at the memorabilia hanging everywhere. Whoa! This was the original Chick-Fil-A, where Truett Cathy had perfected the chicken sandwich! Tony and I felt as though we had unknowingly stumbled onto an historical treasure.
The Legacy of Truett Cathy: Service
Truett Cathy passed away this year at age 93 his was a life well lived. The legacy of Truett Cathy goes far beyond the chicken sandwich. Beyond Chick-Fil-A. Beyond an unprecedented 47 consecutive years of increased sales. No, the legacy of Truett Cathy–while inextricably tied to chicken and his restaurant that sold it–is service.
- To his family: 65 years of marriage, three children, 19 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.
- To the 13-year-old boys whom he taught in Sunday School for over 50 years.
- To numerous children in the foster care system, to whom he provided safe homes through his WinShape program.
- To Chick-Fil-A employees, who–in addition to a guaranteed day of rest from work each week–have had opportunities for college scholarships through the restaurant.
- To many other entrepreneurs through his personal mentoring, books, and programs.
When I consider the legacy of Truett Cathy, though, it can be summed up in two words. Say it with me: “My pleasure.” That’s the thing that has always struck me about Chick-Fil-A, that from the top down, service is a pleasure. Sure, that phrase is taught and expected. But the culture of service has become so rare that those who make it a priority stand out more than ever. I won’t recount all the stories of Chick-Fil-A stepping in to serve their communities in unexpected difficult circumstances, but you are surely familiar with some of them. The company is well established as a positive influence in their communities…because they choose to be.
I have often wondered how successful a company that adopted Truett Cathy’s business model without his values would be. I’m of the opinion that it wouldn’t work…at least for very long. Without the uncompromising values that have guided his business enterprise, the temptation for increased profits would be too great. What do you think?
I’m grateful for the unexpected pleasure of discovering the Dwarf House, a “brush with greatness” experience. More than that, I am grateful for the legacy of Truett Cathy, an innovator in the dying art of customer service. I’ll continue to think of him every time I say “thank you” to a Chick-Fil-a employee, and he or she responds with the best-known phrase in customer service today.
Thanks for reading my tribute to him. It has been my pleasure to write it.
- It’s Easier to Succeed Than to Fail
- Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People
- It’s Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men
- How Do You Do It, Truett?: A Recipe for Success
- Wealth, Is It Worth It?
- The Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure (co-authored with Ken Blanchard)
Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales) and Stories from the Roller Coaster.
Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.