In certain parts of the country, fried chicken sandwiches are synonymous with Chick-fil-A. In recent years, the sandwich that put it on the map has been joined by wraps, salads, and breakfast items, but that no-frills fried chicken sandwich with dill pickle chips has become a hallmark of American casual cuisine. Whether you’re a loyal devotee or are boycotting the chain over its stance on gay marriage, we bet that there are some things you didn’t know about this legendary institution.
The story of Chick Fil-A began in 1946, when founder S. Truett Cathy, who passed away at age 93 in November 2014, opened a restaurant in the Atlanta suburbs called Dwarf House, which turned into a separate chain (with a full menu); 11 Dwarf Houses, now called Chick-fil-A Dwarf House, are still in operation in the Metro Atlanta area. Several years later, Cathy purchased a pressure fryer that he discovered could fry up a piece of chicken for a sandwich in the same amount of time it took to cook a burger, and the proverbial light bulb went off. He trademarked the name Chick-fil-A (pronounced "fill-ay," not "fill-ah," of course), and in 1967 his first unit, specializing in chicken sandwiches and not offering any beef products, opened in the food court of Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall.
The company’s slogan is “We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich,” and while that claim may sound far-fetched, there’s actually some credence to it. Cathy was the first person in the industry to call a fried chicken breast a “fillet,” and before his invention there were no chicken sandwiches on any fast-food menus. Bone-in fried chicken was certainly a Southern staple long before 1967, but few restaurants were breading and frying boneless skinless chicken breasts in the style of fried chicken and putting them on hamburger buns. It was a novel idea, and it made Cathy (and his family, which still runs the company) very wealthy.
Today, Chick-fil-A has nearly 1,900 locations in 41 states and the District of Columbia, and the company recently announced that it would be opening a giant location in New York’s Herald Square, the first in the city that’s open to the public (there’s already one in an NYU dining hall). Whatever your opinion of the company, Chick-fil-A is here to stay. Here are ten facts you might not know about this famous chain.
It Traces its Origins to a Restaurant Called Dwarf Grill
That’s the name of the restaurant that S. Truett Cathy opened in 1946 in Hapeville, Georgia. The name was later changed to Dwarf House.
It Owes its Early Success to Ford
Dwarf Grill was located very close to the Ford Motor Company’s since-demolished Atlanta assembly plant, and many of the restaurant’s early customers worked at the factory. This built-in clientele helped keep the restaurant afloat.