S. TRUETT CATHY
March 14, 1921 - September 8, 2014
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. Cathy’s family has continued his tradition of leadership, including his son Dan, who was appointed as the company’s CEO in 2013, and grandson Andrew, who serves as the current Chick-fil-A CEO.
Cathy was the author of six books and was a committed philanthropist dedicated to making a difference in the lives of youth. He was the recipient of countless awards over the years, both for his business acumen and for his charity. With his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy, he led a life that was centered on biblical principles and family, and is survived by his sons Dan T. and Don "Bubba" Cathy; daughter Trudy Cathy White; 12 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.
A life centered on family
Family was always central to Truett Cathy's life and would shape his unique approach to business. 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 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.
A deep love for customers
Truett 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. Through the years Cathy found many ways to have fun with customers. When the Chick-fil-A Cows were introduced in 1995, he quickly learned that the cows made people laugh. So wherever he went, he always brought at least one bag of small plush cows in the trunk of his car. He would walk into a Chick-fil-A restaurant or even an airport carrying a bag of cows and passing them out—especially to children. But never before asking, “What do the cows say?” When he heard the right answer (Eat more chicken, obviously) then he shared another cow and another smile.
A heart for employees
Truett Cathy had a special place in his heart for his employees. He believed -- as we still do -- that giving people the opportunities they need to succeed helps all of us prosper. Truett never went to college himself. That's why since 1973, Chick-fil-A has given more than $35 million in college scholarships to Chick-fil-A restaurant team members wishing to pursue higher education. His goal: incent the qualities that would help them not only be successful in school, but also in life. After all, Chick-fil-A restaurants, Cathy believed, should be places where leaders develop future leaders. In fact, his first gauge of his restaurant owners’ success was not profits or sales, but the number of future Chick-fil-A restaurant owners that started their careers in that restaurant.