On September 14, Mark Silcox arrived to his first day on the job. He donned his red Chick-fil-A uniform, affixed his nametag and secured a microphone on his collar.
For the most part, he looked like every other Team Member at the Sylvania & Talmadge Chick-fil-A in Toledo, Ohio, but one thing made him stick out. Mark is 5 years old.
The week beforehand, Mark had announced to his kindergarten class he wanted to work for Chick-fil-A when he grew up. When the Toledo restaurant heard about his dreams, Mark was put on a fast-track.
Since being a Team Member for a day, his story went viral, racking up admiration on Facebook: “Cuteness!” said a commenter. “Employee of the month”…”Oh the places you’ll go”…”I see ownership in his future!!!”
Mark is a part of a diehard Chick-fil-A family that lives in the Detroit area. Though the closest Chick-fil-A location is an hour’s drive away, the family makes multiple trips a month—and on every birthday—to enjoy their favorite food.
When Mark’s kindergarten class convened for the first day of school this year, each student posed for a photo standing next to a chalkboard, which showed personal messages like what they wanted to be when they grew up.
For Mark, the answer was easy. He wanted to work for Chick-fil-A.
He gets it from his mother, Brianna. “It’s my favorite place in the whole wide world,” she says. “I’m always joking that working at Chick-fil-A would be a dream job. I guess Mark caught onto that.”
On Facebook, Brianna shared the photo of Mark standing next to the chalkboard and tagged the Toledo restaurant. When franchise Operator Jonathan Winn and Community Engagement Director Nicole Jaeger heard the news, they wondered, “How can we make this moment a little more special?”
Jaeger contacted Brianna, asking if Mark would be interested in becoming a Team Member for a day. Knowing Mark would be over the moon, Brianna arranged a FaceTime call so Jaeger could recruit the young job candidate directly.
A Big Surprise
Brianna first experienced Chick-fil-A in 2013, while living in Maryland. “I had a Chick-n-Mini and my life changed that day,” she says. At the time, she was pregnant with Mark, “so it all makes sense!” Traveling an hour to the closest restaurant is a small consequence, she adds. “Mark says it feels like home. You just walk in and feel like they know you.”
When Jaeger FaceTimed Mark, his family gathered around. Mark appeared before the screen to greet Jaeger. “Hi,” he said in a tiny voice.
“Hi Mark, I’m Nicole from Chick-fil-A,” Jaeger said. “I hear you’re quite a fan. I’m in need of some help tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock, and I was hoping you could come and work with me.”
It took a moment for the news to sink in, but when it did, Mark belted out a squeal of delight. Soon he was dancing around the living room. He barely slept that night.
Hard Day’s Work
When he arrived for the job, Mark received a “training plan”: a checklist including tasks like orientation and order-taking. After a tour, Mark got to work, doing dining room prep, sweeping outside, making fruit cups in the kitchen, and handing out Frosted Caramel Coffees at the drive-thru window. He learned Chick-fil-A tips, like responding to guests with “my pleasure.” His favorite part was refilling guests’ beverages, gripping the large cups with his two little hands.
For his break, Mark sat down with Chick-fil-A Nuggets, a milkshake and a Chocolate Chunk Cookie and wore a big grin. “He was living his best life,” says Jaeger. “We know how special seemingly little things can be for young people. That’s why we were excited to feed into that entrepreneurial spirit when we heard about Mark’s job interest.”
During the ride home, Mark raved about being Chick-fil-A’s youngest Team Member. “I want my own Chick-fil-A so I can eat all the Chick-fil-A in the world and make money and make people happy,” he exclaimed.
Then, after an honest day of work, the 5-year-old fell asleep for the remainder of the car ride.