Search Results for: chick-fil-a

Eat mor non-Sunday chikin

Let’s face it, there are not many controversial fast-food chains in America when it comes to issues of religion, politics and culture (as opposed to super-size-me issues of fat, cholesterol, calories, salt and other forms of human passion).

However, Chick-fil-A would be at the top of the list for a very simple reason — this family-owned chain is centered in the Bible Belt and operated by people who are not afraid to say that they are Christians and that their faith affects how they run things. If you find that interesting, surf around in the following Google files for a few minutes — click here and then here.

The big, symbolic details is that Chick-fil-A franchises are not open on Sunday.

Anyway, I was surprised to discover that this chain is a major player here in blue-zip-code Baltimore. I learned this in a breezy little business-section interview in the Baltimore Sun with Chick-fil-A president Dan T. Cathy. Here’s the opening:

Move over, blue crab. Baltimore loves its Chick-fil-A.

That’s according to Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of the fast-food chain. While on a recent swing through Baltimore, Cathy said the Baltimore-Washington area ranks as the highest average sales market, generating more per Chick-fil-A restaurant than any other market in the nation.

Chick-fil-A Inc. has built a following of devoted customers over the years with its chicken-heavy menu and quirks. Its ads use standing cows who encourage people to “Eat Mor Chikin.” New store openings bring die-hard fans from miles away for a chance to win a year’s worth of free weekly meals. And customers can ask for a behind-the-scene tour of the kitchen.

The focus of this interview with the visiting chicken executive is that fact that Baltimore was one of only two test markets for a new product that the chain has been testing — a spicy chicken sandwich. Now, I know that fried chicken is a key element of the religion of food in the South, but this level of doctrinal innovation is not enough to get one accused of heresy.

Nevertheless, the Sun piece did briefly mention that Cathy is the son the chain’s founder, who is identified as “a devout Christian whose religious beliefs inform company policies.” Thus, readers were kind of asked to read between the lines in these questions at the heart of this interview transcript:

Q: How has Chick-fil-A weathered the recession?

A: Many of our operators decided not to participate in the recession this year. [Laughing] I think we have emotional equity. We have a lot of emotional endearment that has already been built in the minds of our customers, that while they may have to cut back on a lot of things, this is a special treat to eat Chick-fil-A. …

Q: Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays. Have you felt pressure to reconsider that policy?

A: There have been times that we have reaffirmed that decision. We don’t operate outside the U.S. In the ’90s, we thought there might be some markets internationally we might not go into because of our policy of being closed on Sunday. In the U.S., we’re located in some theme parks, but we’re not in all theme parks and a lot of stadiums because we would be required to open on Sundays.

We’ve forfeited a lot of business opportunities because of that policy. But I like to tell people that our food tastes better on Monday because we’re closed on Sunday.

Near the end, the Sun reporter asked a very basic question and, frankly, I am surprised that this very blue-ink newspaper printed the answer. So, kudos to the brave editor who let this get into print.

Q: Is there anything else you want to add?

A: We didn’t talk about our corporate purpose. What really drives us to do all this. It’s a very simple statement: To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

Now, that’s sort of nice. That certainly sounds like Cathy is a Southern evangelical Protestant, but readers never find that out for sure. He’s just another generic “devout Christian.”

But here is my question: Is that enough? Is this a case in which the Sun team actually needed to press on an ask more pointed questions about the chain and its policies? In effect, I am saying that it would have been appropriate — outside the Bible Belt — to ask a few questions from the point of view of the chain’s critics. I, for one, would have been interested in the answers.

Sacred Sundays, even for rugby

When I attended Wheaton College, one of the schools with an exemption so athletes aren’t forced to play varsity sports on Sunday, there was speculation the NCAA repeatedly scheduled one talented Wheaton athlete to meet the toughest opponent in the playoffs. With an early Wheaton exit, the NCAA could avoid having to reschedule its remaining postseason matchups.

The New York Times covered a scenario where sports and Sunday did collide in this story: “B.Y.U. Women’s Rugby Team Will Forfeit if It Reaches Sunday Game.” The story is worthy of coverage, but I wish reporter Katie Thomas had a little bit more space for context.

Kirsten Siebach, the team captain, explains that the team had good reason to believe they would make it to the the quarterfinals of the national college playoffs this weekend.

Siebach said all 35 team members are practicing Mormons, and because USA Rugby scheduled that round on Sunday, the team has decided to forfeit if it wins its game Saturday against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“We’re obviously just very frustrated,” said Siebach, a senior. “We don’t want to put USA Rugby in a bad light, but at the same time we feel like we’ve been treated wrongly.”

Ashley Voss, a spokeswoman for USA Rugby, said scheduling the round for Sunday was not intended as a slight to the B.Y.U. team. “It’s in no way a move to disregard their religious beliefs,” she said. “We want them to be able to compete. We want them to be here.”

Kristin Richeimer, director of membership relations at USA Rugby, said an oversight was responsible for the scheduling.

Admittedly, the writer probably didn’t have very much room, but instead of wasting the room on meaningless quotes, perhaps she could have spent it explaining why Sunday matters so much to this team. Does the LDS Church give any theological guidance on what is acceptable and what isn’t on Sunday? Are there exceptions for people who might take a “Sabbath” on another day?

The story spends a lot of space on explaining the scheduling oversight before getting to the point: these women believe in something more than the sport of rugby.

B.Y.U., a private university owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, does not allow its athletic teams to play on Sundays. The N.C.A.A. requires that championship schedules be arranged to accommodate the religious beliefs of institutions, but club rugby does not fall under its purview. Few universities sponsor varsity rugby teams.

Because the team is not formally affiliated with B.Y.U., Siebach said, “if we really wanted to, we could play on Sunday.”

Why stop there? Would it hurt to put in a sentence or two on why Sunday is so significant that the girls won’t play on it? The reporter merely assumes everyone should know why Sundays are so sacred.

If the reporter had more space, perhaps she could have added more historical context, like whether other BYU players have gone on to play on Sundays following graduation. For instance, BYU alumnus Eli Herring wrote letters to NFL teams telling him that he would not to play in the the NFL because teams play on Sunday. He was drafted in 1995 by the Oakland Raiders but became a high school coach.

Are there BYU alumni who took the opposite route after graduation and play in the NFL? We’ve looked at other stories where the day of the sport being played conflicts with a religious tradition. Certainly there are other notable examples of athletes not playing on the Sabbath (Jews) or Sunday (Christians) (hint: cue Chariots of Fire soundtrack). More anecdotes would provide supplemental background, showing how BYU students aren’t isolated in their Sabbath convictions.

Perhaps some religious scholars could weigh in on how society has changed from when we had a stronger Blue Law society where businesses were shut down on Sunday. The burden of observing or respecting religious traditions seems to fall on the individual sporting leagues or businesses. Craving or not, you still can’t get a Chick-Fil-A sandwich on Sunday.

Image courtesy of

Sundays are not for chicken

day clockThere’s a lot of ink spilled over how politics and religion intersect, but I wish we could see more stories about religion and commerce. It’s somewhat rare to find any religion stories on the business pages.

Dana Knight of the Indianapolis Star examined the two in her piece “Religion at the Register“:

When customers walk into Chick-fil-A, they get a side with their chicken sandwich that’s rare in the world of monstrous fast-food chains: Christianity.

No bones about it, this company’s business philosophy is based largely on biblical principles — including the decision to remain closed on Sundays, when the company could be making big bucks at its 1,356 stores.

“It’s become so much a part of how people think about us that they almost think of that as quick as they think of our chicken sandwich,” said Dan Cathy, president of the Atlanta-based chain, who was visiting the Avon store last week.

It must be true. Every time I get a Chick-fil-A urge, I have to check my Day-of-the-Week clock to make sure it’s the right day for a chicken sandwich and waffle fries!

Anyway, the story lists a few other companies that shutter their doors on Sundays so that employees and customers can go to church and rest. Others are more tolerant of prayer groups or hire chaplains for counseling or to visit employees in hospitals.

But the story doesn’t really explain what, exactly, Christian principles are or where they come from. Even the explanation of why they matter is somewhat shallow. This is the best part in that regard, however.

chicken sandKnight cites Chick-fil-A’s 40 consecutive years of annual sales increases:

A study by McKinsey & Co. found that when companies engage in programs that use spiritual techniques for their employees, productivity improves and turnover is greatly reduced.

Chick-fil-A has some of the most committed employees in the industry, “given the strong principled, religious and value-driven corporate culture,” said Richard Feinberg, a professor of retailing at Purdue University. “Committed employees do better. One would think that closing Sundays would hurt business, and in a sense it does, but it improves employee business relationships and leads to the commitment that the others do not have.”

Carolina Cruz, the operator of the Lafayette Chick-fil-A, welcomes her team members over to her house each Sunday to watch “appropriate” movies and build morale.

“Our team members get to work in a great environment, and that builds loyalty,” said Cruz, who started out as a team member herself. “When I found that the company shared my values, little by little I got more in love with the company.”

Again, it’s a good idea for a story. But I wish business reporters weren’t afraid to delve into the religious concepts and bases for running a “value-driven” company. To that end, maybe a religious source or two wouldn’t hurt.