Samuel Truett Cathy is more than just an American success story since World War II. He has been an American success story ever since that time. He has taken his business from a small restaurant - so small he called it the Dwarf Grill - into a $1.6 billion empire.
S. Truett Cathy BackgroundFollowing his discharge from the U.S. Army in 1946, Cathy and his brother Ben opened the Dwarf Grill in Hapeville, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. They built near a Ford auto plant, succeeding in bringing in its employees. The brothers noticed some of their customers taking rolls and chicken meat and turning them into chicken sandwiches. After Ben Cathy and another brother were killed in a plane crash, Truett Cathy continued to run the restaurant, which he renamed the Dwarf House and franchised throughout the Atlanta area. The original restaurant is still in business, although the Ford plant has since been closed and demolished.
Following the Exodus to the SuburbsNoting the growth of America's suburbs, in particular the indoor shopping malls away from the centers of cities and small towns, Cathy started the Chick-fil-A chain in 1967, in the Greenbriar Mall in southwestern Atlanta. This set the tone for the majority of his restaurants: While some are stand-alone units, most of them are in malls.
S. Truett Cathy's Entrepreneurial StyleInspired as a young man by Napoleon Hill's book "Think and Grow Rich," Cathy has written four books, focusing on business motivation and personal inspiration. A book he co-authored with Ken Blanchard sums up his philosophy: "Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure."
Chick-fil-A franchises are closed on Sundays. Cathy opened his first restaurant on a Tuesday, and found that, by Sunday, he was "just worn out." He noted that, like himself, many of his customers preferred to observe the Christian Sabbath and, in their case, not eat out on Sundays, so he has kept his restaurants closed on Sundays ever since, as much as to honor the religious beliefs of his customer base, the evangelical Southern U.S., not just his own.
Throughout his career, Cathy has used humor to boost his company's profile. Some of his early TV commercials, on Atlanta-area television, showed that he takes his product much more seriously than he takes himself. Since 1994, well into its national phase, the company has produced TV commercials, print ads and highway billboards showing cows holding up signs saying, "Eat More Chicken" - or, rather, suggesting that cows have trouble with spelling, "EAT MOR CHIKIN" - in an effort to get people away from burger chains, thus increasing the fictional cows' self-preservation. Aside from the occasional complaint from the beef industry, no action has been taken against Chick-fil-A for the campaign, as it does not demean any particular competing company.S. Truett Cathy remains deeply involved in Chick-fil-A operations, running the company along with his son Dan Cathy.