It is surprising how often I hear about Chick-fil-A from my friends, even though I live in Massachusetts where there are only a couple of Chick-fil-A restaurants. For example, I was sitting in Bain’s Boston headquarters with the partner team that oversees the firm’s internal Net Promoter process (Bain gathers NPS feedback from its major clients on a regular basis). During a break, I happened to mention to the partner representing our Dallas office that I had invited Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A, to speak at the upcoming NPS Conference in Miami.
My partner exclaimed that his family simply loved Chick-fil-A and visited the restaurant in his Dallas neighborhood almost every week. He then confided that it was really his three-year-old son who was the biggest fan. Whenever the family got in the car on Saturday, the three-year-old would ask if they could visit Jose the mop-man. My partner explained that the first time they visited their local Chick-fil-A restaurant, an employee named Jose was mopping the floor, and when the family entered, he welcomed the young boy with a big smile. With a wink at the parents, he asked the youngster if he could help with this mopping chore. A moment later, the boy was full of giggles as Jose gave him a ride around the lobby on top of the mop. Now, every time they come back to the restaurant, the son looks for Jose—who welcomes him by name—and they find some important job to work on together.
There are lots of ways you might label this kind of behavior. I’ve heard names like “random acts of kindness,” but I really don’t believe it was random. Maybe intelligent kindness or caring service would be more accurate. Personally, I like to think of it as an example of frugal wow. It didn’t cost the store very much to have Jose make the little boy feel special. It almost certainly made Jose feel better about his job when he made that youngster smile. It probably made the other customers in the restaurant smile too. It probably energized Jose so that he was more productive, and it undoubtedly topped up his reservoir of good will to share with other customers and crew members. Then there is the very tangible value of having repeat customers who tell these happy stories to family, friends, and neighbors.
Just writing about this story is making me smile. Which proves the power of frugal wow. Jose’s frugal wow is rippling out from that Dallas restaurant and spreading smiles all the way to Boston. One of the things I find so remarkable about Chick-fil-A is the frequency and variety of creative frugal wow stories that I encounter. I’m hoping that Dan Cathy can explain why he thinks this is happening—and what he and the other corporate execs in the Atlanta headquarters are doing to encourage this kind of behavior so it continues to occur with increasing frequency in Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country.