Dan T. Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, spoke to a University of Georgia audience March 4, 2011, at the Chapel.
Cathy prefaced his lecture with a YouTube video of comedian Tim Hawkins’ “Chick-fil-A song.” He talked about growing up in the family business as the restaurant chain’s growth mushroomed. His father, S. Truett Cathy, started Chick-fil-A.
Then he talked about the restaurant as a “place of restoration” and how that informs Chick-fil-A’s larger corporate mission to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with their restaurants, which he illustrated with a company video.
“When people come into our restaurants, it’s more than just food. It's about encouragement,” he said. “And it makes a difference to hear ‘my pleasure.’ That’s about showing people respect.”
Cathy is renowned for leading the company from the front lines. He spends the majority of his time traveling to grand-opening ceremonies for new Chick-fil-A restaurants and visiting restaurant operators and employees. He said he does this out of the belief that working in the field provides a clearer understanding of the evolving wants and needs of Chick-fil-A customers.
Several marketplace awards have affirmed Chick-fil-A’s customer commitment. In 2008, BusinessWeek and J.D. Power and Associates named Chick-fil-A among the top 25 “Customer Service Champs.” Chick-fil-A ranked 22nd overall and was one of only two restaurant concepts listed. And in 2009, Chick-fil-A received Restaurant & Institutions magazine’s “Choice in Chains” award for the 16th time in 16 years. In 2004, Chick-fil-A was honored with Fast Company magazine’s inaugural “Customer First” award.
Cathy ended his talk with a game, having audience members randomly pull items out of his “leadership took kit,” symbolizing lessons in leadership.
Listen to the podcast of Cathy’s lecture.
Watch a follow-up interview with Cathy that took place after his lecture.