Chick-fil-A's Dan Cathy discusses recent executive promotions

Chick-fil-A promotes five senior vice presidents to executive vice presidents making more room for other promotions

Chick-fil-A president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy has cleared the way for more executive positions at the company as he moves forward with the goal of achieving $10 billion in annual systemwide sales at its quick-service chicken sandwich restaurants by the year 2020.

Cathy said he promoted his five senior vice presidents to executive vice presidents in order to reflect their current roles, which “transcend the functional direct responsibilities that they have.”

“They exercise a broad influence over the business,” he added.

The promotions also make it possible for him to recognize other leaders in the company in the future by giving them vice presidential positions, he said.

“We’ve been together as a leadership team for 30 years, and the business has grown dramatically over the years,” he said of the five new EVPs, noting that the 1,600-unit chain achieved $4 billion in annual sales in the past year.

The company had $1 billion in sales in 2000, he said.

“Leadership today is all about making wise decisions, insightful decisions, decisions based on a clear understanding of where we’ve been, where we are today and the potential for the future. There’s a collective wisdom that this group has demonstrated that recognizes the importance of all three perspectives,” he said.

“We’re not too much individually, but as a group, we’ve got a pretty good track record,” he added.

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He also said that people joining Chick-fil-A today would still feel like they were getting in on the ground floor as he plans to grow the chain into a $10 billion company by 2020.

Among the promoted executives is Perry Ragsdale, who is now EVP for real estate, as well as design and construction — a crucial role since Chick-fil-A builds the vast majority of the restaurants in its 1,600-unit system. Rather than franchising its locations, it then enters profit-sharing arrangements with each unit’s operator, who pays $5,000 upfront. Chick-fil-A gets 15 percent of gross sales and 50 percent of net profits, and the operator keeps the remainder.

Also promoted was Steve Robinson, who is now EVP for marketing and chief marketing officer, and will be "dealing almost as much with the business at large as the marketing function,” Cathy said.

Robinson, who was hired as director of marketing in 1981, oversaw the development of the chain’s popular “Eat Mor Chikin'” campaign, which featured spelling-challenged cattle encouraging people to eat chicken instead of beef.

Donald “Bubba” Cathy, Dan Cathy’s brother, is now EVP and president of Dwarf House, Inc., which oversees the company’s 14 full-service Dwarf House and Truett’s Grill concepts in metropolitan Atlanta. He also is responsible for the company’s WinShape long-term foster homes, team building program and marriage enrichment center.

Jack “Buck” McCabe is now Chick-fil-A’s EVP for finance and chief financial officer. He is also responsible for employee benefits, information technology, corporate administration, legal issues and financial planning for the Cathy family, which founded Chick-fil-A in 1946 under the leadership of S. Truett Cathy.

Lastly, Tim Tassopoulos is now EVP of operations, overseeing coordination of field operations, training, human resources, purchasing and distribution.

“We all grew up together,” Dan Cathy said of the newly promoted executive team. “We started out in our 20s. We were newlyweds. We started to have children around the same time. We went to their weddings, and now we’re celebrating being grandparents. We’ve done life together, as you might say,” he said.

“When we gather on Monday mornings, we spend the first 30 minutes updating each other about our families,” he added. “That speaks to the very personal relationship we’ve developed over the years.”

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