By Jamie Shafer
According to their website , in 2010 the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain sold more than 282 million Chick-fil-A sandwiches. That’s 537 sandwiches a minute or almost nine sandwiches per second. Laid end-to-end, that is more than 22,253 miles of chicken sandwiches.
Founder S. Truett Cathy has overseen the company’s growth to more than 1,600 restaurants in 39 states and Washington, D.C. In 2011, annual sales were over $4.1 billion, seemingly unscathed by their “Closed on Sunday” policy. In 2012, the company plans to continue its growth through 77 stand-alone restaurants and 15 licensee locations, plus a few new menu items.
A New Path
Dee Ann Turner, Vice President of Talent at Chick-fil-A, has had the pleasure of investing more than 25 years with the company that is still privately held and family owned. She jokingly explains that it started with a flat tire.
She and her husband, Ashley, had recently moved to Atlanta, Georgia so he could begin an associate ministry with a local church. Turner, with a degree in journalism and Christian education from Cincinnati Christian University and a degree in Management from Clayton State University, notes that she had a job at the time, but had considered looking into Chick-fil-A.
“My husband helped someone who had a flat tire, and as she was thanking him, she handed him a ‘Be Our Guest’ card for a free chicken sandwich. When he asked if she worked at Chick-fil-A, she explained that they were moving because her husband, who worked in the corporate marketing department, was being transferred.” When Turner’s husband shared the story, she responded quickly, hoping she might be a good match for the role. As it turned out, she began in Human Resources and liked it so well that she has stayed all these years.
“I really believed that full-time Christian service was going to be my calling, but as it turned out, this is my ministry—helping people find their pathway,” shares Turner.
Building Strong Foundations
When asked about the challenges of maintaining high standards of quality and service across the country, she notes the importance of selecting the right operators as the foundation of each store. No matter the city, Turner wants customers to know they can count on the Chick-fil-A brand. She notes that in the early years Cathy chose restaurant operators that reflected his own personality and work ethic.
“He personally selected leadership-oriented entrepreneurs—people he would want his own children to work for. We select the right operators and then it’s up to them to maintain that Chick-fil-A consistency.” Known for the three Cs, the company chooses franchisees based on competence, character, and chemistry.
Over the years, she states, it has been sheer joy to see operators take advantage of opportunities and achieve their goals. She feels she has been blessed by a company that allows her to balance family and work. “They have always given me the freedom to exercise judgment to know where I needed to be and when.” That has been important as she has focused on marriage, parenting three children, and her career. Chick-fil-A even offers onsite childcare at their corporate office in Atlanta.
A Heart for Community
It’s a normal expectation that Chick-fil-A operators have hearts for developing leaders and reaching out to their community. The Cathys set that example in various ways, including sponsoring the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl that benefits a number of charitable organizations and universities. They also started WinShape Foundation, a non-profit organization and charitable foundation with the goal of helping “shape winners.”
“I am proud to work at a place where I’m proud of the family I work for and their values and business principles,” says Turner. “ They truly focus on treating people with honor, dignity, and respect.”
Jamie Shafer is the communications director at East 91st Christian Church, in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.