Chick-fil-A had a really bad idea. Then he found a worse one


Take (the) advantage?

A screenshot of a Chick-fil-A ad.

Chris Matyszczyk/Screenshot

We are in a management crisis.

Bosses have always thought they know how to lead, but with the onset of the pandemic and the propensity for employees to be a little more demanding of where they work, bosses’ heads are spinning.

Not always in a healthy sense.

Take Chick-fil-A. A great company in many ways – commercially, if not always socially.

It has a reputation for attentive customer service, great and consistent food, and a tinge of aw-shucks rather than aw-sucks.

What was a Chick-fil-A from Ohio thinking then when he encouraged customers to flood its drive-thru and break the restaurant’s hourly record?

And on the hot summer day of July 30 too.

It could be fun for customers – unless, like many Chick-fil-As, they’re stuck in a very long line. This Chick-fil-A wanted 163 customers in an hour and tempted them with all kinds of freebies.

I find myself thinking about the store employees. When your bosses create a mad rush, just for the sake of local publicity, it seems, won’t you feel a little resentment?

Why, here’s the reaction to a Chick-fil-A from South Carolina creating the same record madness. In response to a TikTok post that wondered: “What did the employees of Chick-fil-A do to deserve this?” those who experienced it before had thoughts.

“When I worked at chickfila, management would yell at us if we didn’t reach our car count target,” one said.

“Left outside during a heatwave with over 100 cars for 11.75 is exactly why I quit,” another mused.

And then there was this: “We broke the record when I worked there, and we literally got nothing in return.

Another offered a chilling juxtaposition: “The operators (owners) get a bonus from the company for breaking their record.”

I thought there was something more sacred about Chick-fil-A, so does it all really boil down to more earthly desires?

Well, another Chick-fil-A’s story might affirm that.

In Henderson, North Carolina, the owner of Chick-fil-A needed more staff. He had opened, you see, a new Drive-Thru Express. It’s here that two drive-thru lines are offeredone specifically for mobile controls.

This Chick-fil-A took to Facebook to find more employees to staff its Express offering. In fact, the term Chick-fil-A used was “volunteers”.

Yes, he wanted people to come to work without being paid. Instead, the incentive was “Earn 5 free entries per shift (1hr) worked.”

Surprisingly, it didn’t go over so well with the customers, let alone the employees.

First, there was the apparent defiance of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Ach, but who cares about laws these days? What seemed worse was the idea that Chick-fil-A was trying to bribe humans with chicken and waffle fries in order to make money for the company.

It seemed less than thoughtful to some. It seemed less than human to others.

Indeed, the reaction was so severe that the head office Told the Washington Post that the volunteer program was no more.

Worryingly, Chick-fil-A HQ added that the idea did not come from just within it but from the local operator. However, the pressure to make more money surely came from above.

It’s easy for companies to deny responsibility when they could just be pressuring each operator to make more money. They may well pressure every operator when, say, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy confess that a third of drive-thru customers leave without buying because the queues are too long. Hence the glory of the Drive-Thru Express.

Management by pressure is not always the best approach.

Sometimes management through motivation, inspiration and empathy can work best.

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