My family and I were traveling back from a little vacation and stopped at Chick-fil-A. We like Chick-fil-A just fine, but some things about this particular stop at this particular location caught my attention. There was a very inviting water fountain outside with some park benches. The restaurant and the restrooms were very clean. The wait staff was helpful and courteous. The food was fresh and quick.
There was a large crowd of senior citizens playing bingo with a Chick-fil-A employee calling out the bingo numbers. The bingo players looked like they were having a great time and seemed to get up for what appeared to be free re-fills of coffee as needed. There were two cakes set up near their bingo game.
I noticed a little sign with the owner’s picture and an invitation for feedback. I also noticed a large portrait of the owner with his family. The owner himself was there, in a tie, working among the staff and interacting with customers. He asked me if we had been helped and did we need anything further.
The manager came over to check on us and we had a short conversation. He had come to work for the owner after a career in the military as he knew the owner from church. The manager didn’t want to submit to the grind of a different post-military career he was working in so he chose this environment to work with someone he trusted and liked. As we were talking, they started to cut the cakes. It was the owner’s birthday and the seniors that gathered there every Tuesday had made the cakes for him.
This was an environment full of passion, commitment and relationships. This wasn’t just a fast food restaurant, it was a heart call. The owner was quite obviously invested in much more than just the bottom line and I would guess that the bottom line was just fine as a result. This little community of people were enjoying each other and the work that came as part of the deal was likely enjoyable as a result.
That’s the way we are supposed to live. We are meant to do the things that we love to do, allowing that love to flow through us to the thing itself and all the people that we come in contact with around that thing. It is a passion and focus that is contagious and attractive. Others, like the manager, the seniors, customers and employees want to be a part of that kind of effort. It’s never mean to be just chicken or any other widget, but it is an avenue to live life pouring into others through those things we are gifted in and dream about.
The owner didn’t have to put on a tie, include a portrait of his family or invite a group of seniors to play bingo at the expense of one employee’s hourly rate. He does those things because this business is an extension of his heart. As a result of that kind of investment which exceeds dollars and cents, I doubt that there are many (if any) days that the owner feels like his restaurant is just a job. I bet that he is satisfied with the fact that Life flows through him and back from that restaurant and that his birthday does not get forgotten.