According to this article in BuzzFeed, Chick-Fil-A will soon surpass Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and Burger King as the 3rd largest fast food chain in the world. At number 3, Chick-Fil-A will be only slightly smaller than McDonald’s and Starbucks. As a long time fan of Chick-Fil-A, I have often wondered why other brands in the same category don’t at least try to emulate Truett Cathy’s model. There are some things that would be relatively easy for other chains to copy. Then there are the things that, no matter how hard they try, no other chain could emulate.

Customer Service

Customer service is taught and rewarded. Anyone can simply make the decision to do it better, and measure the results. Chick-Fil-A trains its store operators, and then leaves it in the individual operators’ hands to hire and train their employees in the same manner. Yet, no matter which location you visit, you will always hear, “My pleasure” when you say anything resembling “thank you” to a Chick-Fil-A employee. I have it on first hand information that those words took Truett Cathy six years to implement throughout the organization.

Customer service isn’t easy, and great customer service takes time, even in an organization like Chick-Fil-A. Other fast food chains have been around just as long, if not longer, and yet they don’t seem to place a high value on having their employees be polite and courteous.

Innovation

Yes, even in the fast food space, there is innovation. “The Chicken”, as CEO Dan Cathy refers to his company, is always innovating in their delivery of their service. Have you gone through a CFA drive through during the lunch rush lately? First, it’s always packed. Second, rain or shine, there are always a few employees outside taking orders. I have never once ever seen any other fast food chain try anything new at the drive through. But every time I drive through at The Chicken, they’re trying something new to move people through that line faster. And it works.

Stay in Your Lane

I like Arby’s, too. I used to LOVE their chicken sandwich, not to mention when they used to have $1 roast beef sandwiches. Did I just date myself there? That’s ok, because I can remember when Arby’s served only roast beef. Last fall, they tested venison! It. Was. Great. I drove by an Arby’s earlier this week and saw they’re now serving fish, gyros, and cubans. What?!? Good for them if they can pull it off, but I find it just a bit confusing, and divergent from their mainstay: roast beef.

Chick-Fil-A serves one kind of meat: chicken. Even their breakfast sausage is chicken sausage. It’s chicken, and they do it really, really well. I have no idea how or why Arby’s can stray from their original, but then that’s the reason many a business declines and fails.

Sunday, Money Sunday

Other chains can – and should!! – copy or at least try to reach the bar of Chick-Fil-A’s customer service, innovation in the drive thru, and focus on one product. But there’s simply no way any existing chain could close on Sundays, or any other day. It’s ingrained in The Chicken’s culture, and it works so well, they are beating other chains, including McDonald’s, operating 14.2% fewer days per year.

The average Chick-fil-A restaurant rings up more than $4 million in annual sales, according to QSR magazine, millions more than virtually any other restaurant chain’s locations, including giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s — despite Chick-fil-A being open just six days a week. (All restaurants close on Sundays.) The average McDonald’s, for instance, makes about $2.5 million per year.

Can you hear the outcry from other chains’ employees and owners if they announced that all stores would be closed one day a week? Every now and then, you hear some griping about Chick-Fil-A being closed on Sundays. I’m certainly guilty of the ever so common, “Aaauuugggh, it’s Sunday, they’re closed.” Atlanta Chef Kevin Gillespie (Gunshow) even took matters into his own hands to address this systemic issue! Chick-Fil-A is closed every Sunday, yet the average store out performs the average McDonald’s store by 60% ($4M vs. $2.5M annual sales/store). That’s unreal. That’s like Jordan Speith skipping half of his round of golf on Saturday, and still winning the Masters.

Chick-Fil-A Wins

Another restaurant chain could literally copy everything else Chick-Fil-A does, and still not perform as well. Richard Branson is credited with saying, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. Take care of your employees, and they will take care of the clients.” Do you think Truett got that from Sir Richard, or vise versa?

What do you think about that?