They Didn’t Just Invent the Chicken Sandwich

By Kristin Olson

The Young Leaders Group headed south to Chick-fil-A Headquarters for its most recent Learn from the Best series event.  Chick-fil-A was a gracious host providing the event space, a full, catered Chick-fil-A breakfast (I was pretty happy about the chicken biscuits), one of Truett Cathy’s books and a stuffed cow, as well as the wonderful panelists.

The panelists’ presentation started with two videos, one that featured the must-be-heard-for-any-CFA-fanatic, Tim Hawkins’ Chick-fil-A song (  Both were great representations of Chick-fil-A’s corporate culture and purpose, “To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”  (And, I may or may not have shed a tear or two.)

Our panelists were Getra Thomason, Tom Nolan, and PanelistsDon Crocker.  They each gave us insight into their backgrounds and how they came to be at Chick-fil-A.  We then discussed everything from site selection and permitting to Chick-fil-A’s future growth.  We learned that the company actually ventured into the South African market several years back, and while the venture was not a success, it provided a great platform and learning experience as the company considers future growth in non-domestic markets.  First up for CFA international expansion is to conquer North American continent by pursuing opportunities in Canada and Mexico.  But, they still have several US markets to enter, and will be opening stores in Washington and Minnesota this year.

Other interesting Chick-fil-A tibits learned at the event included:

  • the company will be debt free in 2012;
  • at 90 years young, Mr. Cathy still serves as CEO and goes to work almost every day;
  • the downtown Chicago restaurant, which opened in 2011, had the largest volume lunch hour in the history of the company, and
  • Chick-fil-A is expanding their environmental stewardship initiative, building its first LEED certified restaurant in 2011, and it was recently announced that a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas received LEED Gold certification.

When asked about his experience planning the event, John Rhodes had the following to say, “The opportunity to plan the ULI LFTB event at Chick-fil-A headquarters was a great experience.  The event really focused on Chick-fil-A’s mission and their dedication to the fact that every one of their customers has a story and Chick-fil-A sees it as a pleasure to serve each and every individual that comes through their doors.  A motivation that more companies would do well to emulate.”  Thank you so much to the fine folks at Chick-fil-A for extending such a warm welcome to our Young Leaders.

Make you don’t miss out on our next event – Learn from the Best with Wes Hudson of the Reznick Group.  (March 27, 2012.  Go to to register)

A special thank you to John Rhodes, PE with Foresite Group (,  for organizing this event.  John has been a member of ULI since 2007 and active with the Young Leaders Group since 2008.  He is a currently pursuing his City Planning degree at Georgia Tech while working as a project manager for Foresite Group.  Foresite Group is a full-service site design and planning firm with in-house civil engineers, transportation engineers, and landscape architects.


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