Restaurant Branding Lessons from the Chick-Fil-A Man: S. Truett Cathy

S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A was a remarkable businessman; pioneering the fast-food world with the chicken sandwich. He was a life-long philanthropist, innovator, and, we think, restaurant branding expert — expanding his small diner into more than 1,800 locations in 40 states in his lifetime. The year before he died, Chick-Fil-A earned more than $5 billion in sales. The guy knew what he was doing.

S. Truett Cathy truly created a brand that influenced multiple generations. He and the Chick-Fil-A team created visionary branding, marketing and business planning.

The legacy he left inspired our team to dig deep into the chain’s restaurant branding. We found the original restaurant logo design, which prompted us to dig into the evolution of the Chick-Fil-A brand over the years.

The Very Beginning

When he first started out in the restaurant business, Mr. Cathy owned a restaurant called the Dwarf Grill (now called the Dwarf House) for 15 years. In ’61, he discovered a way to fry a chicken fillet in the same amount of time it takes to cook a fast-food burger. His original name was a “chicken steak sandwich,” which didn’t really garner the attention he was after.

He changed the name to a “chicken fillet,” correlating that his grade-A selection of chicken was akin to the best cut of beef.

The Chick-Fil-A Name

The inspiration for the Chick-Fil-A name came from the Grade A chicken fillet the restaurant used.

Although the name of the initial restaurant was “Dwarf House,” Mr. Cathy knew that this new concept needed to focus entirely on the chicken. He refreshed his thinking and started a completely new restaurant with the new name.

We think the name “Chick-Fil-A” is just brilliant. It’s descriptive, catchy, and clear. It refers to the grade A chicken and service you can expect at Chick-Fil-A. We also love that it is a play on the chicken sandwich’s biggest competition: the burger. He named the best trait of steak and turned it into a name for his chicken. That’s just genius.

The Original Chick-Fil-A Logo Design

According to our research, Mr. Cathy allegedly paid $50 for the first version of his logo in 1967. This first version was drawn out on a napkin!

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This first version of the logo was used for three years, up until 1970. While we can guarantee Chick-Fil-A wouldn’t have gotten very far with that logo for any longer, we love some of the basic design aspects of the original logo.

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The logo clearly is a chicken, which is a win. It represents the product being sold in a super-obvious way.

Other than that, we love how many times Chick-Fil-A has updated their logo throughout the years. They knew they needed to evolve to grow, and it worked for them. The logo gets more streamlined and more modern throughout the years, keeping the nod to the original chicken sketch but always improving.

Chick-Fil-A Restaurant Marketing Campaign

The brand took a big leap when the “Eat Mor Chicken” cow campaign launched in 1995, which is one of the most recognizable and successful advertising campaigns America has ever seen.

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These mischievous cows have been painting graffiti for decades, sharing misspelled advice that makes nearly everyone crave some chicken.

This again was a genius way of targeting the competition, burgers, and spinning it to benefit their campaign. Instead of saying, “burgers are bad,” they got creative, did a little research, and created a clever campaign.

Chick-Fil-A Belief System

Chick-Fil-A has never been afraid to stand for what they believe. They have always stood by their morals, proving you can do anything if you have a great product, team, and brand to support it all. They have kept the focus on the chicken and excellent customer service.

“I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed. I have always encouraged my restaurant operators and team members to give back to the local community. We should be about more than just selling chicken; we should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve.” — S. Truett Cathy

Looking to create a brand with a legacy? Contact the Nice team for restaurant branding today.

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