The Georgia Trustees

Trustee Profile: Truett Cathy

  company-bios-truettS. Truett Cathy was founder and chairman of Chick-fil-A, Inc. Cathy started the business in 1946, when he and his brother, Ben, opened an Atlanta diner known as The Dwarf Grill (later renamed The Dwarf House®). Through the years, that restaurant prospered and led Cathy to further the success of his business. In 1967, Cathy founded and opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant in Atlanta’s Greenbriar Shopping Center. Today, Chick-fil-A has the highest same-store sales and is the second-largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the United States based on annual system-wide sales.

In 2011, Cathy celebrated his 65th anniversary in the restaurant business with industry-wide recognition: a local celebration at his first restaurant, The Dwarf House in Hapeville, GA., and the opening of the third Truett’s Grill® location – a concept the chain first introduced in 1996 to recognize Cathy’s then-50th anniversary in the restaurant industry. In 2011, Cathy celebrated another exciting milestone – the 44th Anniversary of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain.

As of February 2012, there are more than 1,605 Chick-fil-A restaurants in 39 states and Washington, D.C. Remarkably, Cathy has led Chick-fil-A on an unparalleled record of 44 consecutive years of annual sales increases. Cathy’s approach is largely driven by personal satisfaction and a sense of obligation to the community and its young people. His WinShape Foundation, founded in 1984, grew from his desire to “shape winners” by helping young people succeed in life through scholarships and other youth-support programs. The foundation annually awards 20 to 30 students wishing to attend Berry College in Rome, GA. with scholarships up to $32,000 that are jointly funded by WinShape and Berry. In addition, through its Leadership Scholarship Program, the Chick-fil-A chain has given more than $30 million in $1,000 scholarships to Chick-fil-A restaurant employees since 1973. This year, the company will award $1.65 million in scholarships to its restaurant team members.

As part of his WinShape Homes® program, nine foster care homes have been established in Georgia, two in Tennessee and one in Alabama that are operated by Cathy and the WinShape Foundation. These homes, accommodating up to 12 children with two full-time foster parents, provide long-term care for foster children with a positive family environment.

Another core component distinguishing WinShape programs is WinShape Camps®. It was founded in 1985 to impact young people and families through experiences which enhance their Christian faith, character and relationships. More than 10,000 campers from throughout the country and abroad attended WinShape Camps in 2010.

In 2003, Truett helped his son and daughter-in-law, Bubba and Cindy, celebrate the opening of WinShape Retreat, a high-end retreat and conference facility also located on the Mountain Campus of Berry College. This multi-use facility hosts marriage-enrichment retreats, along with business and church-related conferences, and in summer months, houses WinShape Camp for girls.

Cathy built his life and business based on hard work, humility and biblical principles. Based on these principles, all of Chick-fil-A’s restaurants operate with a “Closed-on-Sunday” policy, without exception.

Cathy received countless awards over the years, including William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership (2008); Paul M. Kuck Legacy Award (2008); President’s Call to Service Award (2008); The Cecil B. Day Ethics Award (2007); The Silver Buffalo Award presented by the Boy Scouts of America (2007); Tom Landry Excellence of Character Award (2007); Greater Dallas FCA Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Poultry & Food Distributors Association (2005); Norman Vincent & Ruth Stafford Peale Humanitarian Award (2003); Catalyst Lifetime Achievement Award from Injoy/John Maxwell (2003); Georgia Sports Hall of Fame – Chairman’s Award (2003); the Ernst & Young- Entrepreneur of the Year – Lifetime Achievement Award (2000); and Horatio Alger Award – Horatio Alger Association, Washington, D.C. (1989) He also is the author of It’s Easier to Succeed Than to Fail (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1989); Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People (Looking Glass Books, 2002); It’s Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men (Looking Glass Books, 2004); How Did You Do It, Truett? (Looking Glass Books, 2007); and Wealth, Is It Worth It? (Looking Glass Books, 2011); and he is co-author of The Generosity Factor with Ken Blanchard (Zondervan Publishing, 2002).

In addition to presiding over one of the most successful restaurant chains in America, Cathy was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. His two sons, Dan and Don (“Bubba”), have both followed their father in learning the business from the ground-up. Dan became president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A in August 2001 and Bubba is senior vice president of Chick-fil-A, Inc., president of the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House division and vice president of the WinShape Foundation. Cathy’s daughter, Trudy Cathy White serves as the director of WinShape Girls Camps. In 2006, Cathy welcomed the third generation of Cathy family members to the business. Truett Cathy and his wife, Jeannette, have 12 grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren (as of February 2012) and more than 150 “foster grandchildren.

Join us on February 13 for the induction of the newest Georgia Trustees at the
2016 Trustees Gala.