Chick-fil-A has been known to throw out the rule book when it comes to fast food. They spent $50 million to ensure their delicious chicken stays in a league of its own, stepped up the french fry game by serving their popular waffle fries, and you’ll never find a Chick-fil-A open on Sunday. The chain has its own way of doing things, and they are clearly not afraid to experiment and innovate.
Chick-fil-A has done the same when it comes to their employees and how they interact with customers. If you’ve ever been to a Chick-fil-A you know that when you say “thank you,” employees don’t respond with the typical “you’re welcome.”
There is a reason Chick-fil-A employees don’t say “you’re welcome,” and it stems back to founder Truett Cathy’s experience at the luxury Ritz Carlton hotel. This is all part of what the fried chicken chain refers to as, quote, “second mile service,” meaning they want to not only meet customer expectations, but exceed them.
According to Chick-fil-A’s official blog, The Chicken Wire, the importance of customer service was something Cathy learned at a young age. Whether it was selling Coca-Cola bottles to neighbors or delivering newspapers, Cathy did so with the utmost care.
So, it comes as no surprise that when Cathy started Chick-fil-A he told his employees to treat every customer as if they were the president. The endearing response of “my pleasure” only adds to that experience, and actually came about from an interaction Cathy had with an employee at the Ritz Carlton. When Cathy said “thank you” the employee responded by saying “my pleasure.” Those two words really made the hotel stand apart from the competition in Cathy’s mind.
Not only did he feel the sincerity in those words, but he could see it in the man’s genuine smile. Cathy went home and asked his owners and staff to start incorporating “my pleasure” into the Chick-fil-A daily routine.
The two-word phrase has become an unspoken rule over the years. However, a former Chick-fil-A team leader wrote in a Reddit post that the phrase is not a requirement, and other responses from Chick-fil-A staff are acceptable.
Once you’ve been to a Chick-fil-A though, you’ll understand that though accepted, anything less just won’t cut it.
Another worker pointed out that you won’t find “my pleasure” in any part of the Chick-fil-A training program. The response is a learned behavior, and it’s one that customers have come to love. Though not a required response, the employee stated that they felt using the phrase “my pleasure” comes down to simple courtesy.
The phrase “my pleasure” may be something you can expect to hear at Chick-fil-A’s across the U.S., but it wasn’t always that way. According to an unofficial Chick-fil-A podcast, appropriately titled My Pleasure, Truett Cathy initially requested this thoughtful wording be used in 2001 at an annual seminar the chain holds for its operators. Cathy added that the extra kind response really means nothing if it isn’t delivered while making eye contact.
After delivering this mission, saying “my pleasure” took a little while to catch on. The former Chief Marketing Officer of Chick-fil-A, Steve Robinson, wrote in his book Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand that Cathy made the same request for the phrase to be used more widely the very next year.
In 2003, realizing how committed his father was to hearing “my pleasure” ring out from store to store, Cathy’s son Dan began leading by example and using “my pleasure” in his day to day life, while encouraging other Chick-fil-A employees of all ranks to do the same. Chick-fil-A has become a lethal force over the years. In 2018 its sales surpassed Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Subway. Who knows, maybe it’s the simple “my pleasure” experience that’s tipping the scale enough to give those fast food chains a run for their money.
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