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  • Writer's pictureWes Burwell


Recently, I was returning home from work and happened to come to a red light in front of a Chick-Fil-A restaurant. As traffic was at a standstill , I glanced over at the restaurant and saw one of their employees pacing back and forth across a small grassy area between the restaurant and the street. In observing him, I became aware that he was looking for any litter that might have been in the grass. However, he walked back and forth multiple times, as he wanted to ensure that there was not the smallest piece of litter in the grass. That’s when I began to think that this must be an organization where every detail is handled excellently, and that they must be quite successful.

My suspicion was soon confirmed, as in researching their organization I found that they have experienced sales growth every year since 1967. That is over 50 years of successive sales growth! I don’t know of any other firm that can make that claim! Even more remarkable than that is the fact that they have accomplished this with only 2500 locations. Many of their rivals have many more locations, are open seven days a week (which Chick-Fil-A is not), and have not accomplished this level of sales. Subway, for example, has 10 times as many locations as Chick-Fil-A, but has not accomplished this level of sales of Chick-Fil-A.

I decided to dig deeper into the reason for their astounding success, and believe it can primarily be attributed to three reasons.

First, they are fanatical about hiring only the best of the best to operate their locations. It is interesting that one must only pay $10,000 to become a Chick-Fil-A operator, and no particular net worth is required. By comparison, in order to become an operator of a McDonald’s restaurant, one must pay $45,000 and have a net worth of $500,000.

Due to their success, they receive over 60,000 applications annually from individuals desiring to be Chick-Fil-A operators. Of this number, Chick-Fil-A will accept roughly 100 per year, which is an acceptance rate of roughly 0.17 percent. One would have a better chance of getting accepted to Harvard than to be accepted to be the operator of a Chick-Fil-A restaurant. They have made it a requirement to hire only the absolute best.

Next, as noted by the employee who was looking diligently for litter, they are obsessed with the details. In other words, they sweat the small stuff, and have created a culture of excellence.

Finally, they have created an optimum level of customer service. Anyone who has ever visited a Chick Fil A restaurant is almost, without exception, greeted by a smiling employee who is anxious to be of service.

There is an old saying which says that success leaves clues. Well, Chick-Fil-A gives us some clear clues as to how to run a successful business, and I would encourage all of us to evaluate our organizations in these three areas.

First, do our hiring practices ensure that we are hiring the very best candidate for every position in our firms. Whenever a hiring decision needs to be made, we can ask ourselves are we looking for a candidate that happens to be available or are we looking for the very best candidate. As you know, there is a difference.

Next, are we developing a culture of excellence , providing visionary leadership yet still demanding excellence in the smallest components of our organizations.

Finally, let’s evaluate how customer centric we are. This could mean evaluating every customer contact, from the Receptionist to the President to determine how our organizations are perceived. It would not hurt us to use a retail concept of a “mystery shopper,” having a third party provide feedback regarding our level of customer focus.

Well, there you have it. By following these rules we may not be able to match Chick-Fil-A’s record of 50 years of successive sales growth, but we should be poised to improve our performance.

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