As CEO of one of the nation’s largest family-owned businesses, Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy represents the next generation of leadership for the Atlanta-based fast-food chicken restaurant chain. Since taking over the business from his father and founder, S. Truett Cathy, Dan Cathy has been eagerly infusing his own skills and talents into the business. Already he’s known for taking an unconventional, yet personally and professionally rewarding approach to Chick-fil-A leadership.
Named as Chairman and CEO in 2013, Dan served as the president and chief operating officer of the 2,000-plus unit chain since 2001. Throughout his tenure, he has personally challenged himself with upholding Chick-fil-A’s efforts to provide genuine, heartfelt hospitality, while ensuring that all customers have an exceptional dining experience when visiting a Chick-fil-A restaurant. In his quest to provide customers with “second-mile” service (exceeding even the highest expectations one would have of a typical fast-food restaurant), Dan has humbly defined his role by saying, “I work in customer service.”
Rather than leading from his corporate office in Atlanta, Dan chooses to spend the majority of his time traveling to the growing number of Chick-fil-A restaurants and interacting with the thousands of committed restaurant operators and team members. His actions stem from a belief that working in the field provides a clearer understanding of the ever-evolving wants and needs of Chick-fil-A customers; so he leads from the front lines where he is personally able to convey his servant spirit to the more than 100,000 restaurant employees.
The majority of his travels include participating in grand opening ceremonies for new Chick-fil-A restaurants. As yet another example of how he stays in tune with customers and employees, Dan attended numerous restaurant openings last year. In celebration of those openings, he spent many nights camping in restaurant parking lots with customers participating in the company’s First 100 events (participants win free Chick-fil-A for a year). Reflecting on these experiences, Dan notes, “I’m having the most fun I have ever had at Chick-fil-A.”
Several major marketplace awards have affirmed the commitment and performance of Chick-fil-A operators and team members. Technomic’s survey of 85,000 consumers recognized Chick-fil-A in 2015 with the “Consumer’s Choice Award” for pleasant and friendly service. Chick-fil-A was honored again in 2015 as leader of the fast-food industry in Temkin’s Customer Experience Survey. In the 2014 Glassdoor Employee’s Choice Awards, Chick-fil-A ranked among the top 50 Best Places to Work in the nation. Forbes also ranked Chick-fil-A as the fourth most inspiring company in the country based on a survey of more than 2,000 consumers evaluating 25 companies.
While Dan Cathy took the reins at Chick-fil-A in 2013, his career began at age nine when he sang songs for customers and performed radio commercials for the chain’s original “Dwarf House” restaurant in Hapeville, Ga.
After attending college and receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Georgia Southern University, Dan returned to Chick-fil-A where he served as director of operations – opening more than 50 new Chick-fil-A restaurants throughout the country.
As Chick-fil-A continued to grow, so did Dan’s responsibilities. Prior to being named president and chief operating officer, he served as senior director of operations, vice president of operations and executive vice president.
While fully dedicated to the employees and customers of Chick-fil-A, Dan also gives generously to his community. He currently serves on the board of directors for The Georgia Aquarium and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. He is a board member for the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and he serves on the board of advisors for Eagle Ranch, Global Teen Challenge, and Heritage Preparatory School. Additionally, he is a member of the board of councilors for The Carter Center. He has received honorary degrees from Pepperdine University, Anderson College and Berry College. Dan is humbled to have received numerous honors for his service to others. He is a recipient of the Council for Quality Growth’s Four Pillars Award, the Urban League of Greater Atlanta’s Community Empowerment Award and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Outstanding American Award.
In his “spare” time, Dan earned his Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license and has completed numerous marathons in Atlanta, Orlando, Los Angeles, Boston and New York. Additionally, Dan is a passionate trumpet player, gardener, and avid motorcyclist.
A native of Jonesboro, Ga., Dan has been married to Rhonda Palmer Cathy (whom he met while in the first grade) for more than 40 years. He has two sons, Andrew, senior vice president of people at Chick-fil-A, and Ross, owner/operator of the Midland, Ga., Chick-fil-A restaurant. He is also the proud grandfather of three young grandchildren.
His personal passion is to see the fulfillment of the Chick-fil-A Corporate Purpose: “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.”