Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, made the decision when he started the fast-food company in 1946 that it would not be open on Sundays. He believed that the first day of the week should be devoted to “one day to rest and worship if they choose.” The decision, based on deeply held principles, is even more extraordinary given what Chick-fil-A gives up financially.
Chick-fil-A had revenue of over $10 billion in 2018, according to the company’s corporate financials. That figure came from the operation of 2,400 restaurants in 47 states and Washington, D.C. It was the 51st consecutive year of top-line growth, which means that the company is a rare one, as it grew through several recessions, particularly the Great Recession of a decade ago.
Although McDonald’s does not disclose traffic by day, there is evidence that the weekends are particularly busy, which means that it may post 15% of its sales on Sunday. If Chick-fil-A has a similar traffic pattern, Sundays could bring in sales of at least $1.2 billion. It is a sum that management not only has given up, but it has done so with a sense of purpose that almost certainly will not change.
Chick-fil-A remains family owned. Dan T. Cathy is board chair and chief executive officer. Donald (“Bubba”) M. Cathy is executive vice president. At the lead of the company’s statement of “who we are,” management says, “It’s not about being closed. It’s about how we use that time.”
Chick-fil-A has several hurdles to opening a franchise. However, one benefit of ownership is that the company is among the fast-food operators that have healthy food options. This is likely an advantage as fast-food patrons move away from high-calorie menu items.
While $1.2 billion in revenue is a great deal to give up, Chick-fil-A’s approach to which days a business should be open is not going to change in the foreseeable future. Employees are happy with management, at least according to outside research. Glassdoor listed it as one of the 100 best places to work in 2017. It also has been named one of the country’s best fast-food operators.