What Is Chickfila And How Does It Works?

The Story Behind Chickfila: How a Small Diner Became an Iconic American Fast Food Chain

Chickfila is a fast food restaurant chain known for its chicken sandwiches, waffle fries, and top-notch customer service. With over 2,600 locations across 47 states and Washington D.C., it has become one of the largest quick-service restaurant chains in America. But how did a small diner started by two brothers in Georgia grow into a multibillion-dollar brand beloved by millions? This is the story behind Chickfila.

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Humble Beginnings at the Dwarf Grill

The story begins in 1946 when brothers Truett and Ben Cathy opened a small 24-hour diner called the Dwarf Grill in Hapeville, Georgia. The restaurant got its quirky name from its small 10-stool counter and tiny kitchen. Truett Cathy was the hands-on operator while Ben handled the books. The brothers worked long hours operating their modest establishment, but it quickly gained popularity with its service to blue collar workers coming off late shifts at the nearby Ford assembly plant.

By the 1950s, the Dwarf Grill was doing brisk business. As customer demand grew, the brothers expanded the restaurant into a bigger establishment located just across the street. They renamed it the Dwarf House and added new menu items like family-style fried chicken dinners. The new restaurant was a community favorite, drawing in big crowds with its small-town charm.

The Birth of Chickfila

In the 1960s, Truett noticed the growing popularity of fast food chains and realized people were looking for quicker, more convenient dining options. He saw an opportunity to capitalize on this trend with an innovative new restaurant concept focused on high-quality chicken meals.

After months of research and planning, Truett launched the first Chickfila restaurant in 1967 at the Greenbriar Shopping Center in Atlanta. The name “Chickfila” was meant to reflect the restaurant’s specialty in quick-service chicken. Truett trademarked the Chickfila name and iconic “We Didn’t Invent the Chicken, Just the Chicken Sandwich” slogan.

The first Chickfila restaurant introduced core menu items like the Original Chicken Sandwich, nuggets, and Chickfila Waffle Potato Fries. Customers could watch team members hand-breading fresh chicken on site and serving it hot and delicious moments later. Chickfila’s high-quality food and energetic atmosphere made it an instant success.

Rapid Growth Through Franchising

In the 1970s, interest in Chickfila franchises took off as word spread about its winning business model. Truett implemented a unique franchising structure centered on selecting operators carefully, providing extensive training, and giving franchisees hands-on support.

Instead of charging franchise fees, Chickfila allowed operators to purchase restaurant equipment and ingredients directly from the company. This benefited franchisees with lower upfront costs and gave the company deeper control over product quality.

By the 80s, Chickfila expanded beyond the Southeast and opened locations nationwide. The company soon became known for fast and friendly service with team members often spotted taking orders on roller skates. Chickfila solidified its brand with the popular “Eat Mor Chikin” cows campaign that ran from 1995 to 2021.


Chickfila Today: A Restaurant Powerhouse

From its modest beginnings, Chickfila has steadily grown over 50+ years into one of the largest family-owned businesses in America.

Some key facts about the company today:

  • Over 2,600 locations in 47 U.S. states and Washington D.C. with plans to expand further
  • Known as the #1 fast food chain for customer service satisfaction
  • Brings in over $11 billion in revenue annually
  • Employs over 60,000 team members
  • Ranked among America’s top 100 best employers by Forbes
  • Remains closed on Sundays to give employees a day of rest

Despite controversies over its charitable donations and opposition to same-sex marriage, Chickfila remains widely popular, especially across the American South. It continues innovating with technology like mobile ordering and delivery to make its food even more accessible.

With its focus still anchored in providing high-quality food, gracious hospitality, and community service, Chickfila seems poised for even brighter success in the decades ahead.

Chickfila’s Unique Franchising and Operational Model

A key part of Chickfila’s success is its unique franchising structure and hands-on operational approach.

Let’s take a closer look at what sets it apart:

  • Rigorous Operator Selection: Becoming a Chickfila franchisee is highly competitive – only about 75-100 candidates are selected each year out of over 20,000 applicants. Operators go through a months-long vetting process assessing their business acumen, leadership skills, and alignment with company values.
  • Hands-On “Lead Team Member” Model: Chickfila operators are very involved in daily restaurant operations as “lead team members.” They work on the frontlines during peak hours and personally train team members.
  • Extensive and Ongoing Training: Chickfila invests heavily in training programs for operators and team members. Operators receive multi-week training at the company’s Atlanta headquarters along with ongoing training as they build their business.
  • No Traditional Franchise Fees: Chickfila operators don’t pay the upfront franchise fee common with other chains. Instead they make an initial $10,000 investment and buy equipment and ingredients directly from Chickfila.
  • Profit Sharing Program: Chickfila has a unique profit sharing program where they split 50/50 profits with restaurant operators, providing an incentive for hands-on ownership.

This operational model ensures franchisees are highly invested in their restaurants. It’s a win-win structure where Chickfila retains brand consistency while operators benefit from business ownership and profitability.

The Secret Sauce – Why Customers Love Chickfila

So what keeps customers coming back again and again to Chickfila?

Here are some of the key reasons this chain has built such a loyal following:

  • Consistent High Food Quality: Chickfila goes above-and-beyond to ensure every chicken sandwich, nugget, and waffle fry is delicious by using premium ingredients and fresh preparation.
  • Innovative Menu: While keeping menu options focused, Chickfila regularly rolls out new seasonal and specialty items like their frosty milkshakes, spicy chicken sandwiches, and grilled chicken cool wrap.
  • Top-Notch Hospitality: Chickfila invests heavily in customer service training. Team members are known for being polite, efficient, and going the extra mile.
  • Family-Friendly Vibe: With play areas for kids, cow mascots, and a clean atmosphere, Chickfila restaurants cater well to families.
  • Community Investment: From scholarships to summer camps for employees, Chickfila gives back generously to local communities. This builds customer goodwill.
  • Speed and Convenience: Chickfila was early to adopt innovations like drive-thru, mobile ordering, and delivery to make getting food fast and easy.

The company stays laser-focused on constantly improving each of these areas. This winning formula is why Chickfila ranks #1 in customer satisfaction surveys year after year.

The Road Ahead for Chickfila

As Chickfila moves into its 6th decade, analysts see tremendous growth potential ahead. The company aims to become the third-largest fast food chain behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks by opening hundreds more locations and expanding globally.

However, the road may not be without challenges. Some controversies regarding Chickfila’s donations and LGBTQ issues may hamper expansion into more liberal markets. Competition is also heating up in the chicken wars with new players emerging.

But if its history is any indicator, Chickfila will meet these challenges and opportunities creatively. With its people-focused and community-oriented approach, this iconic American brand is poised to continue satisfying chicken lovers for generations to come!


The story of Chickfila’s journey from a small Georgia diner to a fast food juggernaut reflects the power of innovation, quality ingredients, and unwavering focus on customer service. By sticking to its core values and constantly improving, this family-owned chain has earned its stripes as an iconic American brand beloved by millions. Chickfila’s future looks bright as it stays committed to providing one-of-a-kind dining experiences anchored in gracious hospitality and community care.

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