"Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to
someone else—our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in
giving when I did not expect anything in return."
- Quote from "Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People" by S. Truett Cathy, published 2002.
Chick-fil-A, Inc., Founder S. Truett Cathy died Sept. 8, 2014, at age 93. Cathy started the business in 1946, when he and his brother, Ben, opened an Atlanta diner known as The Dwarf Grill (later renamed The Dwarf House). Through the years, that restaurant prospered and led Cathy to further the success of his business. In 1967, Cathy founded and opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant in Atlanta's Greenbriar Shopping Center. Today, Chick-fil-A has the highest same-store sales and is the largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the United States based on annual system-wide sales.
In 2011, Cathy celebrated his 65th anniversary in the restaurant business with industry-wide recognition: a local celebration at his first restaurant, The Dwarf House, in Hapeville, Georgia, and the opening of the third Truett's Grill® location – a concept the chain first introduced in 1996 to recognize Cathy's then-50th anniversary in the restaurant industry. In December 2013, Cathy celebrated another exciting milestone – Truett's Luau. Located in Fayetteville, Georgia, this exclusive restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner menus featuring a variety of fresh seafood items such as Mahi-mahi, Ahi tuna, cod, calamari and shrimp, as well as other Hawaii-inspired dishes. Some familiar Chick-fil-A favorites also are available, including the original Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich, Chick-fil-A Chick-n-MinisTM, Waffle Potato Fries® and hand-spun milkshakes.
At the time of his death, there were more than 1,800 Chick-fil-A restaurants in 40 states and Washington, D.C. Remarkably, Cathy led Chick-fil-A on an unparalleled record of 47 consecutive years of annual sales increases. Cathy's approach was largely driven by personal satisfaction and a sense of obligation to the community and its young people. His WinShape Foundation, founded in 1984, grew from his desire to "shape winners" by helping young people succeed in life through scholarships and other youth-support programs. The foundation provides 120 students at Berry College (Rome, Georgia) with experiential training in leadership and community. In addition to the training, WinShape Foundation provides a $4,000 scholarship to these students enrolled at Berry College. Also, through its Leadership Scholarship Program, the Chick-fil-A chain has given more than $32 million in $1,000 scholarships to Chick-fil-A restaurant employees since 1973. This year, the company will award more than $1.75 million in scholarships to its restaurant team members.
As part of his WinShape Homes® program, 13 foster care homes have been established that are operated by the WinShape Foundation. These homes, accommodating up to 12 children with two full-time foster parents, provide long-term care for foster children within a positive family environment. WinShape Homes has provided a safe and secure home to more than 450 children, where they could grow physically, spiritually and emotionally.
Another core component distinguishing WinShape programs is WinShape Camps®. It was founded in 1985 to impact young people and families through experiences that enhance their Christian faith, character and relationships. Each summer, more than 18,000 campers from throughout the country and abroad attend WinShape Camps.
In 2003, Cathy helped his son and daughter-in-law, Bubba and Cindy, celebrate the opening of WinShape RetreatSM, a high-end retreat and conference facility also located on the Mountain Campus of Berry College. The multi-use facility hosts marriage-enrichment retreats, along with business and church-related conferences and, in summer months, houses WinShape Camps for Girls.
The Rock Ranch, a 1500 acre working cattle ranch and agritourism destination was founded by Cathy in 1989. Located just south of Atlanta in The Rock, Ga., The Rock Ranch is a place where families, school groups and even businesses can enjoy a full day of fun and learning on the farm. The ranch was a very special place for Truett, and fulfills a mission he was extremely passionate about; “Growing Healthy Families!”
Cathy built his life and business on hard work, humility and biblical principles. Based on these principles, all of Chick-fil-A's restaurants operate with a "Closed-on-Sunday" policy, without exception.
Cathy received countless awards over the years, including most recently becoming a Georgia Trustees Inductee (2013); Fayette County [Georgia] Chamber of Commerce Dreambuilder Award (2012); Children’s Champion Hunger Award (2011); World Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award (2010); Salute to Greatness Martin Luther King Jr. Award (2009); William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership (2008); Paul M. Kuck Legacy Award (2008); President's Call to Service Award (2008); The Cecil B. Day Ethics Award (2007); The Silver Buffalo Award presented by the Boy Scouts of America (2007); Tom Landry Excellence of Character Award (2007); Greater Dallas FCA Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Poultry & Food Distributors Association (2005); Norman Vincent & Ruth Stafford Peale Humanitarian Award (2003); Catalyst Lifetime Achievement Award from Injoy/John Maxwell (2003); Georgia Sports Hall of Fame—Chairman's Award (2003); the Ernst & Young- Entrepreneur of the Year—Lifetime Achievement Award (2000); and Horatio Alger Award—Horatio Alger Association, Washington, D.C. (1989)
Cathy was the author of It's Easier to Succeed Than to Fail (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1989); Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People (Looking Glass Books, 2002); It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men (Looking Glass Books, 2004); How Did You Do It, Truett? (Looking Glass Books, 2007); Wealth, Is It Worth It? (Looking Glass Books, 2011). He also was the co-author of The Generosity Factor with Ken Blanchard (Zondervan Publishing, 2002).
In addition to presiding over one of the most successful restaurant chains in America, Cathy was a dedicated husband, father and grandfather. His two sons, Dan T. and Don ("Bubba"), both followed their father in learning the business from the ground up. Dan became chairman and chief executive officer of Chick-fil-A in November 2013 and president and chief operating officer in August 2001, and Bubba is executive vice president of Chick-fil-A, Inc., president of the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House division and vice president of the WinShape Foundation. Cathy's daughter, Trudy Cathy White, serves as the director with WinShape Camps for Girls. In 2006, Cathy welcomed the third generation of Cathy family members to the business.
Truett Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy; sons Dan T. and Don "Bubba" Cathy; daughter Trudy Cathy White; 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.