S. Truett Cathy, founder and chairman emeritus of Chick-fil-A, passed away Monday morning at the age of 93.
Cathy is credited with creating the original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich and pioneering in-mall fast food en route to building one of the largest family-owned companies in the United States.
“Truett Cathy was a true visionary—a remarkably innovative leader who created not only a uniquely delicious chicken sandwich but also an extraordinary way of doing business,” said Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO, The
Cathy's connection to
“Coca-Cola inspired Truett’s first business," said Martha Lawrence, Cathy's longtime executive administrator. "He used his five-cent profit to help support his family. It was such a success that he set up a drink stand in his front yard, and a lifelong partnership was born."
As a reminder of his humble beginnings and first venture, Truett kept a wooden wagon complete with Coke bottles in his Atlanta office. "The little wagon is still on display today," Lawrence adds, "presenting
This spirit of entrepreneurship continued in 1946, when Truett and his brother, Ben, built a tiny diner in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, Ga. known as Dwarf Grill (later renamed Dwarf House). It was at the original restaurant that Cathy created the sandwich that became the company's signature item.
Under his leadership, Chick-fil-A posted 47 consecutive years of annual sales increases. Currently, there are more than 1,800 Chick-fil-A restaurants in 40 states and Washington, D.C. The company reached $5 billion in annual sales in 2013.
Cathy's oldest son, Dan, became president of Chick-fil-A in 2001 and chairman and CEO in 2013, and Truett Cathy continued in the role of chairman emeritus until his death.
Cathy was often quoted as saying: "I'd like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed. I have always encouraged my restaurant operators and team members to give back to the local community. We should be about more than just selling chicken, we should be a part of our customers' lives and the communities in which we serve."
As an extension of Cathy’s faith and desire to put principles and people ahead of profits, all Chick-fil-A restaurants operate with a "Closed-on-Sunday" policy. Chick-fil-A will remain privately held and closed on Sundays, the company announced.
Vernon Mauldin, national sales director for
Truett Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy; sons Dan T. and Don "Bubba" Cathy; daughter Trudy Cathy White; 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
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