goBeyondProfit CEO Interview: Dan Cathy, Chairman of Chick-fil-A Part 2


Friday, September 30th, 2022

Business leaders must ‘stand in the gap’ on social issues

Founded 76 years ago right here in Hapeville, GA, Chick-fil-A and its Chairman Dan T. Cathy, recently received the 2022 goBeyondProfit Champion Award. This recognition is based on their success in consistently delivering care through meaningful daily moments that permeate the Chick-fil-A culture and result in decades of generosity.

Excerpts taken from the interview with Dan T. Cathy, Chairman, Chick-fil-A, Inc.

Responding to Community Needs

Our Chick-fil-A restaurant operators are independent contractors. They’re self-employed. We provide the capital and the brand, and all the systems so that the operators have all the pieces. But the operator, she is the individual that’s able to pull all that together to make it viable and meaningful for local communities that they may be in.

And we are one of the “first responders,” if you will, in times of crisis. During COVID, we were deemed an essential business and we were given special provisions to be able to continue to operate our business. Many of these school systems that were shut down and others, that was the sole source of food service for many students, needed other avenues of being able to meet those needs. So we were able to mobilize.

In fact, some of our communities, actually asked Chick-fil-A operators for their logistics expertise to help stand up COVID testing site. So our operators jumped to the rescue. And it came back as tremendous loyalty as a result of Chick-fil-A restaurant operators responding so effectively. 

Standing in the Gap

Well, one of the things that we should aspire to have in life is the ability to see what’s going on around us. You know, we can see, but do we really see?

I know in 2020, just two years ago, the cover, a veil was opened. And we began to see how elements of our society, particularly the African American community, have a lot of unseen hardships that they are dealing with that I think many other people, including myself, were oblivious to. And so it’s the eyes to see, it’s the ears to hear, but it’s also the heart that cares. It’s seeing and hearing, but it’s also a sense of conviction in heart, that we need to take action. We need to do something about the situation.

We need to stand in the gap. If we’ve got inequities in our society, in education and medical care, justice, and on and on and on, all these inequities, we need, in our generation, to step up. And by a sense of our own personal moral compass and our moral convictions we need to stand in the gap and we need to speak out.

I love the quote from Martin Luther King that says, “We begin to die when we fail to care about things that really matter.” And we see these issues around us. We don’t need just to see them or hear about them, but we need to ask ourselves, do we see the opportunity that we have to be able to stand in the gap? I’m all for elected officials, but I’m also really for the private sector that can move a lot faster to stand in the gap to address these issues.

Reputation is really a lot of choices and decisions we make, and not just the big things, but the little things that we might do that may go unnoticed. And I have observed in leaders that I admire the most, that it’s the subtleties of their behavior, their conduct, the way they embody the values of generosity by their own personal conduct, that is most inspiring to me. And I hope that at Chick-fil-A and this recognition we’re receiving, I hope that it’ll continue to inspire others.