S. Truett Cathy, the founder and longtime chairman of Chick-fil-A, passed away at the age of 93 on September 8, 2014. If you don’t recognize that name, you will definitely recognize his legacy.
Credited for introducing the chicken sandwich concept to the quick-service industry, Cathy often downplayed his job saying, “I cook chicken for a living.” While that’s true, it’s a serious understatement considering that Chick-fil-A grew to surpass “KFC in total U.S. sales, taking in $5 billion last year … [and] in “2013 sales exceeded its larger rival’s by nearly $800 million in the U.S. — And that’s with zero dollars coming in to Chick-fil-A on Sundays, when every restaurant is closed,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
In 2014, the fast food chain celebrated 50 years of the original Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich, after selling more than 3 billion sandwiches since 1964. Through his years, Cathy was able to create a strong brand that advocates “principles before profits” — one of many life and business lessons entrepreneurs can learn from.
In honor of S. Truett Cathy and his exceptional work, here are five lessons Chick-fil-A can teach every entrepreneur about running a successful business:
Little Things Matter
When it comes to customer service, the little things matter. Most businesses scrape by offering shoddy service and poor customer support. Chick-fil-A, on the other hand, does everything right in this department.
Employees will do things like: a) ask for your name in the drive-through so they can greet you at the window; b) respond with “my pleasure” no matter what you order, ask or say; c) offer free samples; d) clean the restaurant thoroughly; e) offer restaurant patrons refills, extra napkins, and general service. The list goes on. The main point is that Chick-fil-A does customer service right. The best part is that their employees are always polite, respectful, professional looking and friendly.
The customer experience at Chick-fil-A is undoubtedly driven by Cathy’s recipe for success which includes creating a “loyalty effect.” According to the founder, “Our people are the cornerstone of all that we do at Chick-fil-A. As a chain, we believe that attracting great people helps create an unforgettable experience for our customers … Customer satisfaction is the payoff for spending the time to search for the best employees. Our restaurant team members have proven time and time again that going out of your way to make sure our customer has a pleasurable dining experience will build customer loyalty.”
Cleanliness is Next to ‘Profit’
If you’ve ever visited a Chick-fil-A restaurant you’ll notice their bathrooms have germ-free wraps on door handles to keep hands clean. According to QSR magazine this is the right approach: “Results of a recent study conducted by Cintas Corporation (NASDAQ:CTAS) reveal that 95 percent of people avoid businesses where they have had a negative restroom experience. A dirty restroom can result in lost revenue, fewer guests, and a poor reputation for a quick service restaurant.”
Meanwhile, tables are always clean and ready to use. Peek behind the scenes and you’ll notice the kitchen area is kept clean and free of clutter or food spills, as well. More importantly, employees are always well-groomed. This attention to detail may seem silly at first, but try visiting other fast food restaurants where spotless is a dirty word. These details merely add to their family-friendly brand image and atmosphere. Besides, most people prefer to eat at a clean restaurant over a dirty one. Consider this: what does your place of business say about your brand?
Cheap Isn’t Always Better
Sometimes, you have to charge a little more to make more. In Chick-fil-A’s case, this pricing strategy works. “What Chick-fil-A lacks in store count, it makes up for in traffic. Each restaurant made about $3.2 million in 2013, more than three times as much as the average KFC at $938,000 [its closest competitor].” Not only is the food delicious, the service and environment is worth the cost, especially if customers are willing to pay.
Customers Flock to a Well-Designed Website
The Chick-fil-A website skimps on nothing. According to a Foundry case study, “Chick-fil-A wanted a website that balanced a customer’s need for information with ways to support the deeper connection that many fans have with the brand.”
The digital firm created a website that aligned with the company’s business goals. “An example of this is the socially-driven ‘Share Your Story’ capability, where customers can post experiences in restaurants and describe how the company has had an impact in their lives. Other content areas, including careers, company history and the Chick-fil-A Cows all offer deeper experiences that help customers connect with the brand.”
In today’s digital age, a poorly designed website can do irreparable harm to your brand. So, take a page from the Chick-fil-A playbook and seek out ways to bring your brand to life and forge deeper connections with customers.
Give Back to Your Local Community
Cathy once stated, “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.” This guiding principle is most notably honed through the company’s community outreach efforts.
The fast food chain is constantly offering local promotions to youth groups, sports teams, charitable organizations, and they even help their employees go to college. More than 20 million has been awarded to recipients since 1973.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Alicia Lawrence is writing on behalf of WebpageFX, a full-service Internet marketing, web design and web development agency offering integrated web solutions for medium to large sized businesses across the globe. In her free-time, she contributes to Entrepreneur magazine, Create for Cash, and Career Girl Network. Read more from Alicia on her blog. Connect with @webpagefx on Twitter.
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