This Used To Be The Only Place You Could Get Chick-Fil-A

For the past half-century, customers have flocked to Chick-fil-A. Fans enjoy its friendly customer service, flavorful sides, and of course, its trademark chicken sandwich that's served with two pickles on a buttered bun. These popular sandwiches have delighted Americans ever since 1967, when the very first Chick-fil-A opened in the Greenbriar Mall, a new shopping mall in a suburb of Atlanta, Ga.

According to the Encyclopedia, Samuel Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A's founder, had previously run a successful diner called the Dwarf House, in Hapeville, Ga. In 1951, he opened a second location in Forest Park and business boomed until tragedy struck in 1960, when the Forest Park location burned down. Rather than attempting to scrape together enough money from the inadequate insurance payments to reopen another stand-alone diner, Cathy decided to try something new. His first Chick-fil-A, selling the famous chicken sandwich he had perfected during his Dwarf House days, which took up only 384 square feet in the Greenbriar Mall's food court. 

"Truett saw there was a ready-made market. All the salespeople and store employees that worked all day in the mall didn't have anywhere to eat. They had the space, he saw a need, but it was a challenge — nobody had done it in the Southeast before," Cathy's former executive assistant, Martha Lawrence, explained via Chickenwire.

Chick-fil-A opened its first stand-alone restaurant in 1986

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, as shopping malls became a fixture of American suburban life, the fast food chain grew with them. Per Encyclopedia, by 1971, Chick-fil-A had already opened locations in seven malls across Georgia and the Carolinas. By 1975, there were over 20 locations in malls throughout the southern U.S.

"At the time, there were precious few restaurants—fast-food or otherwise—in malls. People would come to the malls to shop and go elsewhere to eat. We saw this as an opportunity to reach customers where they shopped and before they went elsewhere," Cathy explained. People loved the convenience of not having to stop shopping to grab a bite to eat, and by 1982, Chick-fil-A had opened over 250 restaurants in shopping malls across the country, per Business Insider.

The first stand-alone Chick-fil-A location wasn't opened until 1986, when the company decided to capitalize on the rising popularity of drive-throughs throughout the suburbs. These days, Chick- fil-A has over 2,200 restaurants in all but three U.S. states, but you can still find quite a few in the very same places they got their start: the food courts inside shopping malls across America.