The Untold Truth Of Chick-Fil-A's Dan Cathy

From the cows imploring guests to eat more chicken to the gains of responding to employees with the phrase "my pleasure," Chick-fil-A is not your typical quick service restaurant. And the culture that's been established clearly comes from the top with a family of executives that have steered the brand in the right direction over the years. 

Named the company's second CEO in 2013, Dan Cathy stepped into the business that was originally founded by his father (the late S. Truett Cathy), and he ultimately grew the company to earning $14 billion in sales in 2020 alone (per Restaurant Business Online), even with just a six-day operating week as the chain is famously closed on Sundays. And, according to Business Insider, Chick-fil-A is "the most profitable fast-food chain in America on a per-location basis, with the average per-unit revenue greater than $4 million." 

With Dan Cathy's tenure slated to come to a close at the end of October 2021 (his son Andrew will soon get the reigns, per Nation's Restaurant News), the successful businessman leaves in his wake a lasting impression on the popular restaurant chain, beyond just the numerical growth. The company's mission, as noted on the official website, is to "have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A" — and some say that the first bite of that Southern style chicken sandwich is a positive experience for all who enjoy it. Here's more about the man behind the enterprise.

Dan Cathy sang his way into the company business

While many people might know Chick-fil-A as the quick service restaurant with a great chicken sandwich that's served along with Southern hospitality, the brand grew from the ashes of a spot called The Dwarf House. According to QSR Magazine, original Chick-fil-A founder and CEO S. Truett Cathy and his brother Ben opened a diner called The Dwarf House (previously the Dwarf Grill) in Atlanta. That business later evolved into a version of the current Chick-fil-A chain, but the Dwarf House is in fact where Dan Cathy got his start.

According to a bio, Cathy is said to have started singing jingles in the restaurant for the patrons when he was just nine-years-old. While he might not be singing a Chick-fil-A jingle today, those first steps into the family business gave him an appreciation of the hard work required to succeed. As noted in his Chick-fil-A biography, Cathy is known to say at restaurants, "Hi. I'm Dan. I work in customer service." That attention to hospitality is one of the reasons why the chain has such a loyal following with many of its customers. 

It is more than providing a consistent, reliable great chicken sandwich. It is about how that sandwich is delivered to the guests and how the guests are treated. While that sentiment might not be set to music, it does have a nice ring to it.

His sense of teamwork came from years wrestling

Before ever creating a chicken sandwich empire, Dan Cathy spent years wrestling in both high school and college. According to the State of Georgia chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Cathy "won the state title at 119 pounds in 1971 and had a 40-4 record his last two years." After high school, Cathy went on to wrestle at Furman University in South Carolina. And, in 2003, he was honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and continues to support the Georgia Wrestling State Awards banquet. (After Furman, he would earn a bachelor's degree in business administration from Georgia Southern University, according to the NWHOF bio).

During his speech at the Wrestling Hall of Fame honoree ceremony, Cathy spoke about the lessons that he learned from wrestling that he still uses today, as seen in a video of the speech archived at FloWrestling). One of those items, he said, was teamwork. The concept of working together for an end goal was one of the missions that he proudly brought into the workplace. By focusing on strengthening the group and working together, Cathy believes that success is more probable.

The influence of faith informs how Cathy does business

While everyone may not always agree with the integration, Dan Cathy and his family have chosen to weave their Christian beliefs into the Chick-fil-A corporate philosophy. During a discussion with Baptist Press, Cathy addressed the concept of a "Christian corporation." While he does not agree with that term, he said that his corporation is guided by Biblical principles. Specifically, Cathy stated, "Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are." Some of these individual beliefs have since molded the corporate philosophy.

For example, Chick-fil-A is well known for being closed on Sundays, which is considered a day of rest in the Christian faith. As Cathy also outlined in the Baptist Press interview, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (the college football bowl game played in Atlanta, Georgia every year and sponsored by the chain) is the only bowl game to have an invocation and it will never be held on a Sunday, according to the CEO.

People may or may not agree with the integration of faith into a corporate atmosphere. But, as a family-run organization, Chick-fil-A stands tall on their pillar principles, even if that means some many choose to not support the business. But, for Cathy, his faith does not waiver and he will not bow to pressure. 

The reason why music is so important to Dan Cathy

Dan Cathy is said to have many hobbies, including playing the trumpet. Whether he does so to awaken people camping outside for a Chick-fil-A restaurant grand opening (as seen in this YouTube video) or playing in the band during a Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl game (per UPI), it seems that music is woven into his life on a pretty regular basis. While it might not be a soundtrack humming in the background, music has provided both solace and inspiration for Cathy as he has admitted on previous occassions.

During an appearance at Samford, in fact, Cathy addressed his love of music and the importance that it plays in his life, and even asserts that music has helped him succeed in business, referencing hat "music stimulates creativity." As a businessman, Cathy believes that being able to channel creativity in the corporate world can help his organization hit all the high notes of success.

Dan Cathy is proud to be part of the Moo Cow Bikers

Driving down the highway, you can often find Chick-fil-A signs and billboards. Whether it's of those mischievous cows imploring people to eat more chicken or a highway sign alerting drivers to a nearby restaurant, that iconic "A" appears often on the open road. For Dan Cathy, that is precisely the place to pursue another of his hobbies, riding with the brand's unofficial Moo Cow Bikers.

Although much isn't known about this motorcycle group, Cathy does reference that he is a happy part of the organization. As seen in a Tweet, he rode his "cow bike" to a restaurant opening in Albany, NY. Even though a cow-themed bike isn't required membership, the organization's Facebook page shows many people are happy to be part, as they share their photos of participating in charity events and fundraisers. 

In general, Cathy is known to often take the road to visit many of the chain's restaurants, rather than stay cooped up in the corporate offices in Atlanta, per this bio. Though probably not always on his bike. He often attends grand openings and spends time with local management teams, saying that "he believes his travels provide a clear understanding of Chick-fil-A customers and help to convey his own servant spirit to restaurant operators."