Chick-fil-A is the greatest fast food restaurant there is. They have everything you could ever possibly want from a fast food eatery. Delicious food. Impeccable service. All kinds of variety on the menu. Effective advertising. Healthy options. There really isn't a single negative thing I can say about Chick-fil-A, even when food spoilage is brought into the equation.
Once, I found a freckle-sized speck of mold on the bottom bun on my half-eaten Chick-fil-A sandwich. When I went up to the counter and asked only for a new bottom bun, the employee apologized profusely, gave me a whole new sandwich, refunded my money, and gave me a coupon for a future free sandwich. That's two and a half sandwiches for the price of zero. You don't see that kind of respect for the customer in many places, and you'd hardly expect to find it in a food court. Yet here is Chick-fil-A, a true standalone class act in the lowly realm of fast food joints. When I thanked the kid behind the counter, he refused to accept any thanks whatsoever, diligently promising that Chick-fil-A hated giving its customers moldy bread. As I walked away, I heard him yell back toward the kitchen, "We need to do a better job checking for mold on the buns!" Again, this was a freckle-sized speck of mold. Totally non-offensive and even consumable. This kid could not have been more than sixteen years old. He was certainly no manager; he was probably making less than seven bucks an hour. Yet here he was, representing the company he worked for in the most professional and apologetic way, sincerely upset that his employer had let down a customer. That's integrity.
And that's really what Chick-fil-A is all about. Not only is the food such a refreshing alternative to the food court norm - delicious, fresh, and healthy to boot - but so are the employees. They respond to every customer's "thank you" not with the standard "you're welcome" but with a smile and a "my pleasure." Once, my girlfriend made a late change to her order and added, out of habit, the word, "sorry." As in, "Oh, sorry, can I have no pickles on that?" The kid behind the counter - again, some fifteen-year-old - let her know very clearly that she should not have been sorry, that there was no need to apologize, and that it, of course, it was his pleasure to make that simple switch. It was almost too much.
Why all the focus on customer satisfaction? It's not just a great business move. It's a religious one. The founder of Chick-fil-A is a devout Southern Baptist, and his religious faith has played an enormous role in his restaurant's goals and policies. The company's mission statement is "to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A." The place is even closed every Sunday. If that sounds old-fashioned, it's because it is.
Religion is totally last millennium's thing. In an ever-increasingly secular and atheist society, a business run on Christian principles seems ludicrous, and certainly to some, offensive. It is easy to allow fundamentalist Christianity to scare and repel us. After all, how can we relate to people who don't believe in dinosaurs? It's very easy, then, especially today, to take the bad and leave the good when it comes to religion. Sure, bible-waving preachers from the deep South can be downright frightening, and it's always easy to shake our heads when various Midwestern townships ban the teaching of evolution in public schools. In our haste to ridicule those people seemingly blinded by faith, it is easy to forget about the inherent principles of Christianity and most religions in general. Benevolence, charity, neighborly love. Who does more community service than the religious? Who raises more funds for the impoverished and disabled? There are certainly a number of people out there blinded by faith, but true ignorance would be disregarding all of the contributions made to society by religious organizations.
As long as religion isn't being rammed down my throat, I'm completely tolerant of basically every kind of it. And Chick-fil-A isn't outwardly mining for faith in the least bit. There is no Baptist propaganda anywhere to be found. Their mascot isn't Jesus; it's a cow who cannot spell! If you didn't know Chick-fil-A was run by devout Christians, you'd never learn so by going there. I respect Chick-fil-A not for having religious morals, but for having them without forcing them upon anyone, least of all their customers. And more than anything, I respect Chick-fil-A for having outstanding food and service.
In a day and age where "religious" can be synonymous with "nutty, misinformed, and angry," it's refreshing to see that a company can use basic religious principles to succeed in a secular and capitalist world. Even if it means I need to go to Burger King for my chicken on Sundays.