Friday, March 13, 2009

Chick-Fil-A, the service economy, and your church

In 2005, Janet and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary with the best vacation ever. We saved money for months and months and blew it all in one week. We went on a cruise to the western Caribbean ports on Royal Caribbean. We loved it!

One of the things about cruiselines and high-end vacation places like Disney is that they are selling you an experience. The commodity is more than the boat, the hotel, the beach, the mouse ears, whatever you may be doing. The commodity is actually everything surrounding it.

Our family has become regular Chick-Fil-A customers. Especially on Tuesday nights when with the purchase of a regular "value" meal a kid's meal is free. The restaurant at this location usually has "the cow," a balloon person, face painter, crafts, plus other freebies for the kids. They love it. We enjoy it.

But the thing about Chick-Fil-A, and the thing about its astounding growth in the last few years relates back to the experience it creates for its customers. Consider this:

  • What other restaurants, fast food or otherwise hand out so many coupons for free food?
  • What other restaurants have specific family-friendly weekly nights? I mean more than just "kids eat free," I mean actively giving away desserts, doing fun stuff for kids.
  • Where else can you go to see a cow walking around on two legs?
  • What other fast food restaurant features a hostess that comes out, offers to remove your trash and tray and get you a refill? And no, they don't accept tips.
  • The phrase "My pleasure." In place of "your welcome." I would wager the same consulting firm that trained the Royal Caribbean staff must have also trained the CFA staff. The difference is subtle, but significant. "Your Welcome" implies automatic response. I-say-this because you-said-that kind of thing. It also carries a connotation of "I didn't mind doing that for you." "My Pleasure," on the other hand has much stronger service overtones. It says "I really wanted to do that for you, and I'd do it again."
  • What other fast food restaurant is specifically and intentionally closed on Sundays because it is The Lord's Day?

Finally, the refills. Has anybody encountered a Chick-Fil-A where the soft drink dispensers are available for you to use? I used to think it was a mistake for CFA to not put them out for everyone to serve themselves. Now I am convinced it is intentional. I believe they keep them behind the counter because they want you to come ask for a refill. They want to force the service interaction, and create another opportunity to say "My Pleasure."

So how do the Chick-Fil-A principles apply to our churches? What lessons of service and kindness are Chick-Fil-A stores teaching by example that the church should already know? If a fast food restaurant can exemplify Christian values, stick firmly to biblical principles, and produce a quality product enough to generate a blog post like this, how much more should people be walking away from a gathering of any kind at a church and want nothing more than to come back?