Chain’s ex­ecs visit area restau­rants

The Kansas City Star (Sunday) - - ALTERNATIVE MOTORS BUSINESS - By JOYCE SMITH

Pres­i­dent Dan Cathy, son of the com­pany’s founder, is also speak­ing to church groups and or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Dan Cathy held up a colos­sal plas­tic-cov­ered recipe Mon­day while tour­ing his Chick-fil-A restau­rant at Ward Park­way Cen­ter.

“In most fast-food restau­rants you don’t need recipes, you just need in­struc­tions: Open the box,” said Cathy, pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the At­lanta-based chain. “We are still res­tau­ra­teurs op­er­at­ing this busi­ness. We’re not ac­coun­tants. When ac­coun­tants start run­ning Chick-fil-A, you won’t have fresh-squeezed lemons, you will have Coun­try Time or some kind of pow­dered mix.”

Cathy and mem­bers of his cor­po­rate team are in town this week vis­it­ing area op­er­a­tors, tak­ing a look at sites un­der construction and per­haps scouting for new lo­ca­tions.

“We’re bullish on the Kansas City mar­ket,” he said.

And why not? When the first area lo­ca­tion opened nearly four years ago in Olathe, it had the high­est-gross­est open­ing week­end in the chain’s 43-year his­tory.

Since then, six more area lo­ca­tions have sprung up, in In­de­pen­dence, south Kansas City, Lib­erty, Olathe and Over­land Park. All are cor­po­rate-owned ex­cept for a li­censed op­er­a­tion at

John­son County Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

A Chick-fil-A lo­ca­tion at Plaza at the Speed­way, 10770 Par­al­lel Park­way, Kansas City, Kan., is sched­uled to open in Au­gust, and a St. Joseph lo­ca­tion is sched­uled for June, for a to­tal of 120 new jobs. Two or three more area restau­rants are planned in the next two years.

Busi­ness de­vel­op­ment wasn’t the only item on Cathy’s agenda this week. Be­fore wind­ing up the visit later to­day, Cathy also planned to speak to churches and or­ga­ni­za­tions, shar­ing the com­pany’s phi­los­o­phy, core val­ues and strat­egy.

Chick-fil-A got its start when Cathy’s fa­ther, S. Truett Cathy, opened The Dwarf Grill in 1946, but with a twist: It would be closed on Sun­days be­cause he didn’t want to deal with money on the “Lord’s Day.”

That be­came the foun­da­tion of the com­pany’s cor­po­rate pol­icy: To glo­rify God by be­ing a faith­ful stew­ard of all that is en­trusted to us. To have a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on all who come

@Go to KansasCity.com for Joyce Smith’s video re­port on Dan Cathy’s restau­rant visit. in con­tact with Chick-fil-A.

To­day, the elder Cathy — who still comes into the of­fice daily at 89 — says his pol­icy of clos­ing on Sun­days was the best busi­ness de­ci­sion he ever made. His son agrees.

“We do in­cred­i­ble sales vol­umes Mon­day through Satur­day,” he said. “Any crave-able brand typ­i­cally has lim­ited ac­cess.”

For those who might fret over los­ing a day’s sales, con­sider this — Chick-fil-A sales were more than $3.2 bil­lion in 2009, an 8.6 per­cent over­all in­crease and a 2.5 per­cent same­store sales gain from the year be­fore. That was in one of the worst economies in decades and marked the chain’s 42nd year of con­sec­u­tive sales gains.

Chick-fil-A uses fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles and name­brand prod­ucts while stick­ing strictly to those enor­mous recipes for a con­sis­tent ex­pe­ri­ence, Cathy said.

But the com­pany gives em­ploy­ees lee­way for their “warm-hearted im­pulses.” So a Florida op­er­a­tor pur­chased an over­sized pep­per mill so he could of­fer din­ers freshly ground pep­per for their sal­ads. Cathy liked the idea so much that he pur­chased 1,500 more for his other restau­rants.

When chicken nuggets pass their hold­ing times, a Vir­ginia Chick-fil-A op­er­a­tor puts them in a plas­tic bag la­beled “Not for hu­man con­sump­tion” and passes them out to dog own­ers in the drive-through.

Cathy talks about how the word “restau­rant” comes from the word for “re­store,” some­thing the com­pany con­stantly re­in­forces with its work­ers.

So one of its em­ployee train­ing films shows what may be go­ing through a cus­tomer’s mind when she is stand­ing in a Chick-fil-A line. Maybe she is wor­ried about a job sit­u­a­tion or just lost a hus­band. Or the per­son could be a child with an emo­tion­ally abu­sive par­ent.

“That busy mother might need more than waf­fle fries and a cook­ies and cream milk­shake for re­sus­ci­ta­tion,” Cathy said. “Peo­ple are starv­ing for honor, dig­nity and re­spect. We’re all about in­flu­enc­ing peo­ple and giv­ing them the en­cour­age­ment they need.” To reach Joyce Smith, call 816234-4692 or send e-mail to [email protected]­star.com.

CHICK-FIL-A

Chick-fil-A’s “Eat Mor Chikin” cows are the fo­cal point of the chain’s in-store pro­mo­tions and mer­chan­dis­ing.

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