The founder of Chick-fil-A passed away, 47 years after he founded the chicken chain.
On Monday, Chick-fil-A announced that its founder S. Truett Cathy died at age 93. Cathy served as the chairman and CEO of Chick-fil-A until 2013, when his oldest son, Dan, took on the role. Cathy continued in the position of chairman emeritus until his death.
In 1946, Cathy opened a small diner in an Atlanta suburb. The diner served as his inspiration for Chick-fil-A, which he founded in 1967. Today, there are more than 1,800 Chick-fil-A restaurants in 40 states.
The Southern chain will retain the mark of its founder's personal beliefs as Dan Cathy continues to head the company. One of the most enduring and well-known embodiments of Cathy's convictions is Chick-fil-A's "Closed-on-Sunday" policy, which requires every restaurant to only operate six days a week for practical and spiritual reasons.
While Chick-fil-A gained the respect of Christian customers with its Sunday policy, the Cathys have also drawn criticism for their socially conservative views. In 2012, the company made headlines when Dan Cathy condemned same-sex marriage and it was uncovered that the company donated millions to groups that oppose marriage equality. The company has recently distanced itself from the controversy, with Chick-fil-A's CEO telling USA Today earlier this year that "all of us become more wise as time goes by," and, "I'm going to leave it to politicians and others to discuss social issues."
"I'd like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order," was a frequent line from Truett Cathy, according to Chick-fil-A's website. "We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed."
Today, Chick-fil-A is changing – though, not in the areas Cathy valued the most. The company says that Chick-fil-A will remain privately owned and closed on Sundays. However, it is expanding, especially in urban areas where restaurants will feature more natural wood and chef's coats instead of traditional uniforms. It added specialty-grade coffee to the menu in August and rolled out a new grilled chicken recipe earlier this year.
As it evolves, Chick-fil-A is thriving. The chain recently became the largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain based on annual system-wide sales, with the company reporting that it reached $5 billion in annual sales in 2013. Ultimately, however, the company's success is built on Cathy's decades of work: Chick-fil-A claims that the founder led the chain through 47 consecutive years of annual sales increases in his lifetime.