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Chick-fil-A heirs vow to stay private

December 11, 2007|From Reuters

Truett Cathy, the octogenarian founder of the Chick-fil-A chicken restaurants, said Monday that his children had promised him the family business would stay private and closed Sundays even after he was gone.

"I have a commitment from my three children that they will keep it private," said Cathy, who is 86 and still goes into the office every day. "And that we'll always close on Sunday."

Chick-fil-A, which has more than 1,300 U.S. locations, is best known for its Southern-styled fried chicken sandwiches topped with butter and pickles. The company had sales of $2.28 billion in 2006, a 15% increase from the previous year.

Cathy's children are all part of the family business.

In addition, three of Cathy's grandchildren are pursuing careers at Chick-fil-A, which is adding 60 to 70 restaurants a year.

By staying private, Cathy said the Atlanta company had been able to do things it would not have had it been under the scrutiny of Wall Street, such as expanding quickly.

Staying closed Sundays is key, Cathy said, because it gives employees a day off to spend with their families and attend religious services if they choose.

In addition to staying private and remaining closed Sundays, Cathy also requires that the company base its business decisions on "biblical principles."

"If you work at Chick-fil-A we don't require that you have a relationship with the Lord and Jesus," Cathy said. "We just ask that you make your business decisions according to biblical principles."

Such principles include treating customers as employees would like to be treated themselves, Cathy added.

Chick-fil-A this year was ranked first in fast-food service in a Zagat/Today show survey, as well as No. 1 in chicken.

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