Market Edge: Why Chick-fil-A Restaurants Sell Three Times as Much as Competitors

Market Edge: Why Chick-fil-A Restaurants Sell Three Times as Much as Competitors

A recent story in Business Insider says the average Chick-fil-A restaurant generates three times the revenue of the average KFC restaurant.

Both focus on selling chicken, but Chick-fil-A per restaurant sales in 2014 were $3.1 million, compared with $960,000 per KFC restaurant.

Perhaps you’re wondering: So what? What does Chick-fil-A’s success have to do with leading like Jesus?

In all actuality, the reasons behind Chick-fil-A’s incredible success provide a powerful illustration of the practical implications of leading like Jesus.

Closed on Sundays

Chick-fil-A’s per restaurant sales are the highest in the entire fast food industry, beating second ranked Jason’s Deli ($2.7 million) and third ranked McDonald’s and Panera (tied at $2.5 million).

The numbers are even more amazing when you realize that Chick-fil-A restaurants are always closed on Sundays, while its fast food competitors are typically open seven days a week.

Chick-fil-A restaurants aren’t open on Sundays because the franchise’s founder, Truett Cathy, had a deep belief in Jesus that was at the core of all that he did and the basis for the values of his business. As a restaurant owner laboring day and night for six exhausting days a week, he made it a practice to close his business on Sundays so he could go to church and spend time with his family.

When he started his franchise business, he made it part of the franchise agreement that restaurants could not be open on Sunday. He died in September 2014, but his family continues that faith-based tradition. Obviously, putting faith and family first hasn’t hurt sales.

Concern, Gratitude and Generosity

But why does Chick-fil-A perform so much better than the competition despite its shorter work week?

According to Hayley Peterson, author of the Business Insider article, there are two reasons:

  • The quality of the food, “which gets high ratings from customers;” and,
  • Exceptional service.

“The chain consistently ranks first in restaurant customer service surveys,” says Peterson, adding: “Customers rave about the restaurants’ cleanliness, quick convenient service, and hardworking employees.”

Peterson says the difference in customer service can’t be explained by high wages. Chick-fil-A pays an average of $8.44 per hour, compared with an industrywide average of $7.98. There’s a difference, but it’s not huge.

The big difference is how Chick-fil-A franchisees treat their employees.

“Chick-fil-A says its service is so consistent because it invests more than other companies in training its employees and helping them advance their careers – whether or not those careers are in fast food,” Peterson writes. “Franchisees are encouraged to ask their new hires what their career goals are and then help them to achieve those goals.”

Peterson talked with Kevin Moss, a Chick-fil-A manager of 20 years, who said helping employees achieve their career goals has included funding one employee’s marketing degree and paying for another to take photography classes.

Moss added that he also tries to support employees in times of need, So, for example, “when an employee’s family member is in the hospital, he will send food to the family and the hospital staff.”

He explains: “I’ve found people are more motivated and respond better when you care about them.”

Peterson notes that many Chick-fil-A franchisees offer additional training classes so employees can earn certificates in courses such as managing food and labor costs and managing conflict in restaurants. “The better we train, the longer people stay with us,” Moss says.

Perhaps the company’s concern for its people reflects another dimension of Cathy’s faith: gratitude and generosity. Among the five books that he wrote, you’ll find The Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure, which he co-wrote with Ken Blanchard, co-founder of the Lead Like Jesus movement.

Your workers will treat your customers only as well as they are treated.

As an employer myself, I’ve tried to lead by a key principle: Your workers will treat your customers only as well as they are treated. If you are an employer and want to be known for offering exceptional service, start by treating your employees exceptionally well.

And I know of no better way to assure that than to focus on trying to lead like Jesus.

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Owen Phelps

Dr. Owen Phelps is Director of the Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute and author of the book, The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus: Introducing S3 Leadership — Servant, Steward, and Shepherd. He has presented Lead Like Jesus Encounters in Canada, Uganda and India, as well as all across the U.S.


He formerly served on the faculty of the College of Business & Management at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, and was a consultant on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Communications Committee for about a decade. He has served as a consultant to church organizations from Vermont to Texas. 


Dr. Phelps was an award-winning writer, columnist, editor and publisher with a multi-state publishing company before he began work in ministry. He has written several articles and contributed chapters to two books devoted to issues of faith-based organizational performance.


He and his wife Jane, a CPA, have been married for 49 years. They live in Durand, Illinois, and Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, and they have five grown children and 17 growing grandchildren.

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