Tribute: Chick-fil-A Founder S. Truett Cathy Passes into Glory Today at 93
Left impressive legacy of godly business stewardship
As evidenced by the life and business legacy of Chick-fil-A Founder S. Truett Cathy, doing business God’s way—according to biblical principles—works.
Following several weeks of failing health, billionaire Cathy, 93, died peacefully of natural causes this morning at his surburban Atlanta home surrounded by his family. A public funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at Jonesboro First Baptist in Jonesboro, Georgia—where he was a member and had taught Sunday School for 50 years.
Born in 1921 in rural Eatonton, Georgia, Cathy attended high school in Atlanta and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. His rags-to-riches story as a devoutly Christian business entrepreneur gives strong witness to the biblical truths that hard work and faithful stewardship with the small things entrusted to us by God lead to ever-increasing responsibility and leadership in our respective spheres of influence.
As stated on Chick-fil-A’s website, Cathy relied on a keen business sense, a strong work ethic and a deep Christian faith to build a tiny diner in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville in 1946. From this humble beginning, Cathy perfected his boneless chicken recipe and expanded it to include timeless Southern offerings such as sweet tea, biscuits and gravy.
Since the founding of Cathy’s first Chick-fil-A store in 1967, the privately held company in 2012 became America’s leading chicken franchise—boasting more than 1,800 stores in 40 states and the District of Columbia. With 2013 annual sales topping $5 billion, business analysts now predict that given Chick-fil-A’s current growth trajectory it could overtake fast food industry-leading McDonald’s in the next 10 years. All this, despite the fact all Chick-fil-A stores honor the biblical teaching on keeping the Sabbath holy and are closed on Sundays so that employees can worship and spend time with their families.
Here, the fruits of Cathy’s adherence to God’s principles of business stewardship are most evident: With 46 straight years of consecutive growth, Chick-fil-A stores today generate even greater average sales per unit in six days than its leading competitors do in seven. Specifically, even though it forfeits $500 million annually because of the decision to close on Sundays, the average Chick-fil-A in 2010 generated $2.7 million in store revenues–$300,000 more than runner-up McDonald’s. And staff turnover is very low for both hourly workers and franchise operators, who make an average of $190,000 annually.
While Wall Street analysts may wonder how success on this magnitude is achieved, Faith Driven Consumers know that the secret lies in Truett Cathy’s commitment to biblical values and the philosophy of “going the second mile” as a Gospel witness to its patrons. According to its mission statement, Chick-fil-A seeks to “glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us” and to “have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
It’s because of this unwavering track record of applying biblical principles to its business leadership that Chick-fil-A has earned a 4.5 out of 5-star rating by Faith Driven Consumer. And it’s because of both Truett Cathy’s and his son Dan’s principled stands on biblical marriage in the face of a nationwide campaign in 2012 by gay activists and their allies to negatively impact the company that millions of Faith Driven Consumers around the country rallied to stand by Chick-fil-A—driving up its annual revenues by more than 20 percent by some estimates.
Cathy’s legacy of leading a faith-driven corporate culture was not limited to success in revenue generation. Although his $6.3 billion fortune put him squarely on the yearly Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest Americans, Cathy wrote five books on business and wealth stewardship and parenting, and he gave generously to causes supporting higher education, student scholarships and biblical marriage as well as programs to aide disadvantaged youth and foster children through his WinShape Foundation.
As a man who loved what he did and couldn’t wait to get to work every morning, Truett Cathy was actively involved in Chick-fil-A’s operations until well into his 80s—only stepping down as Chairman and CEO in late-2013. Over the course of his lifetime, Cathy ran the good race well and positively impacted the culture in a winsome way for Christ.
And in perhaps his most lasting legacy, Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jean McNeil Cathy, as well as two sons and a daughter, 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Well done, good and faithful servant!