Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chick Fil A Founder S Cathy Truett Passes Away

Georgia restaurateur and philanthropist S Truett Cathy passed away from natural causes in the early morning hours on Monday at the age of 93. Final services were held on Wednesday at the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, GA.

A devout Southern Baptist, Samuel Truett Cathy was born in central Georgia in 1921 and after attending high school in Atlanta, GA, served in the Army during WWII. After the war, Samuel returned home to the Peach state and along with his brother Ben, opened up a restaurant in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville that specialized in chicken sandwiches. The Hapeville, GA restaurant was actually called the Dwarf grill because of its small size.

In the early 1960s, Samuel discovered a fryer that could prepare the chicken for his sandwiches in about the same time it took for many burger joints to prepare a burger. Running with that concept, Cathy opened the first Chick Fil A in Atlanta's Greenbriar Mall in 1967. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Chick Fil A expanded to a number of food courts throughout the southeastern USA. However, the first free-standing Chick Fil A restaurant wasn't opened until 1986. As of 2012, Chick Fil A has roughly 1000 locations across the USA, including airports, hospitals, sports venues and universities.

Besides the restaurant business, S Truett Cathy was also a Sunday school teacher for nearly 50 years. Samuel sought to incorporate many of his Baptist beliefs within Chick Fil A's corporate culture- most notably closing the restaurant on Sundays so that employees and management could spent time with family or go to church.

In 2001, Samuel stepped down and his son Daniel T Cathy took over day to day operations as CEO of Chick Fil A- although his father remained on the board of directors until late 2013. Like his father, Daniel was also a devout Baptist and said in a 2012 interview that he was against same-sex marriage. The fairly innocuous and bland statements brought down the wrath of the left and LGBT activists, accusing the restaurant of discriminating against gay and lesbian employees or customers. Seeking to capitalize on the controversy, the mayors of Chicago, Boston and San Francisco publicly stated that Chick Fil A would not be welcome in their cities [Chicago had two Chick Fil A locations before the 2012 controversy while there were no Chick Fil A locations in Boston or San Francisco proper; just the suburbs- NANESB!]. Calls for a boycott were countered with a 'buycott' from evangelicals and conservatives, bringing attention to a previously nondescript fast-food chain and breaking all single-day sales records.

The chicken-centric restaurant's slogan is "We didn't invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich" and their ad campaign in recent years features a pair of Holstein cows urging people to 'Eat Mor Chikin' while displaying misspelled signs. Most notably for sports buffs is that the restaurant secured sponsorship and the naming rights to the Peach Bowl in the 1990s.

Samuel Truett Cathy also wrote a number of motivational and how-to books, such as Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People; How Did You Do It, Truett? and It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men explaining some of his business practices or how to raise a family. In 1984, Cathy also founded the WinShape foundation which was meant to foster good ethics and success in business, marriage, academics and marriage.

In addition to the Chick Fil A Franchise, Cathy started up a number of other Atlanta-area eateries in recent years with an emphasis on causal dining in recent years, including Truett's Grill, Truett's Pizza Cafe as well as the original Dwarf House.

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