Why Do Chick-fil-A Employees Always Say, ‘My Pleasure’?

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Anyone who has been to a Chick-fil-A as undoubtedly been greeted with a level of hospitality that makes you question if you’re actually at a fast-food restaurant. From flowers on tables to their signature phrase, “My Pleasure,” the customer service is impeccable. But why do Chick-fil-A employees always say, “My Pleasure”?

Humble Beginnings: Truett Cathy’s Story

The founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, was born on March 14, 1921. He grew up as a Christian Baptist in Georgia during the Great Depression. His family was poor, as were most people at that time. According to the company website, in 1929, 8-year-old Cathy tried selling Coca-Cola bottles from his front yard. Sales weren’t that great. So, after someone recommended that he add ice to the sodas, he started hand-chipping ice and selling the beverages for a nickel a pop. Business started booming, you could say.

After that, Cathy was a newspaper delivery boy on a bicycle. He found joy in taking care when he delivered each customer’s paper. He made sure that the papers were put in easy-to-find spots and never got wet. “I delivered each paper as if I were delivering it to the front door of the governor’s mansion,” he said.

Cathy, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 93, had apparently tapped into something very special. He found that making other people happy made him happy, and that became his business model. But it wasn’t just business, and it wasn’t just him. He attributed his outlook to the Christian values that he grew up with. To love thy neighbor.

The First Chick-fil-A

In 1946, Cathy opened up a small diner in Hapeville, Georgia. It was called Dwarf House and it would essentially be the prototype for and original Chick-fil-A. It’s still standing and in business to this day, although it was closed for a period of time for renovations.

The story goes, some friends who supplied chicken to a local airline offered to give Cathy a bunch of extra chicken. Cathy worked really hard to find the perfect chicken sandwich recipe. His perfect chicken sandwich was the inspiration for what would become Chick-fil-A. The first Chick-fil-A restaurant with the same name was opened in 1967 in the Greenbriar Mall food court.

The business website says this about its founder:

“Cathy always maintained he wasn’t in the chicken business, but the people business. From knowing his customers by name, to forming lifelong friendships with his employees, Cathy viewed his business as more than a source of revenue for him and his family; it was a source of encouragement to others.”

The people business. Cathy became known for giving away free food to those in need, those who were sick, and anyone who needed help.

“He kept a running list of people’s needs that he jotted down on a scrap of paper and tucked safely into his pocket,” it says on the website. “Whenever he had extra, he would quietly meet their need with little fanfare.” His philanthropic endeavors grew from there and included establishing college scholarship funds for employees and establishing a foster home organization for children.

“My Pleasure” : The Signature Chick-fil-A Saying

According to the company’s former marketing chief, Steve Robinson, Truett Cathy got the idea for “my pleasure” while staying at a Ritz Carlton. Truett shared how he felt about the phrase while franchise owners were meeting at an annual seminar in 2001. He asked everyone in the business, from servers to C-Suite executives, to use the phrase in lieu of “You’re Welcome.”

“You expect that from a five-star hotel,” he said. “But to have teenagers in a fast-food atmosphere saying it’s their pleasure to serve—that’s a real head-turner.”

CNN reports that although saying “My Pleasure” is an “unwritten rule,” it is uniformly practiced across the board. Allegedly, the person to really push the trend was Truett’s son, Dan, who became CEO in 2013. He began saying “My Pleasure” in 2003, and then everyone else started doing it.

“It dawned on me that this could be a service signature for us, almost like two pickles on a sandwich,” said Dan Cathy.

The Christian Kindness Model Is Working

Chick-fil-A has taken off, ranking #1 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index for 8 straight years. The company brought in $11.3 billion in revenue in 2019, with only McDonald’s beating it out at $40.4 billion. However, what’s impressive is that Chick-fil-A could have made more money, but it chooses to stay closed on Sundays.

That’s right. Because of the Christian practice of Sunday Sabbatarianism and its devout commitment to Christian values, Chick-fil-A closes its doors every Sunday.

After Truett Cathy’s passing, NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed longtime employees and customers of Chick-fil-A.

One loyal customer, Britt Kugler, said, “He really believed that it was the Sabbath, and you shouldn’t work on the Sabbath, and he lived it. He didn’t just talk it. He lived it — ’cause he could’ve made billions of dollars more by opening on — over the years -—by opening on Sunday. And he chose not to do that.”

It really was all about kindness.

Read More: Chick-fil-A Employee Rescues Mom and Baby After Fighting Off Carjacker

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