Photo by Jim Massara/
Riverdale Dwarf House Manager Chris Smith, Forest Park Dwarf House manager Eric Stallings, and Chick-Fil-A Executive VP Donald “Bubba” Cathy. The pepper grinders are used at Dwarf Houses for salads, and the umbrellas are used to help customers to the door on rainy days. The cow needs no explanation.
Sit down with Chick-Fil-A executive and Jonesboro resident Donald Cathy in one of his restaurants, and what does he talk about? Mostly chicken — but a lot about values as well.
Cathy, who goes by “Bubba” and is one of Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy’s two sons now running the business, was just promoted from senior vice president to executive vice president. The promotion is largely symbolic but, he says with a laugh, it does mean that “I need to keep working hard.”
His Clayton County connection runs deep. Most of the Cathy clan resides in Clayton, and Cathy met his wife Cindy at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, which he’s attended most of his life. What’s more, he and his wife attended Clayton County schools at various times while growing up, as did four of his six children. Cindy served on the Clayton County School Board for a time in the 1990s.
Chick-Fil-A also has a sizable footprint in Clayton. Cathy says his company has seven restaurants here with about 460 employees, generating about $20 million in sales. “That’s a lot of job base here,” he says.
It’s a good thing there are so many Chick-Fil-A’s nearby, because Cathy says he never tires of chicken.
“There are so many things you can do with chicken. You can eat it day in and day out,” he says. He even occasionally slips into a Chick-Fil-A drive through on his way to work to grab some easy-to-hold chicken nuggets or chicken strips.
If that doesn’t suit you, Cathy suggests Chick-Fil-A served with grilled onions, served at the company’s Dwarf House restaurants. Or a strawberry milkshake. Or some fresh-squeezed lemonade. Or waffle fries, which he describes as Chick-Fil-A’s “most craveable product.”
Faith motivates it all, Cathy says.
“My father sees no conflict between Biblical principles and good business practices. The Bible says, ‘Give and it shall be given unto you.’ And the best marketing you can do is giving out a card that says come and have a free sandwich,” Cathy says with a smile as he hands out a card. “And when we ask folks to use that card, we also ask folks to bring in a paying customer.” He laughs.
Cathy’s being tongue-in-cheek about the card but is serious about his faith. One way he lives that out is helping to teach a class with Cindy at First Baptist for couples contemplating marriage.
“I think we’ve seen somewhat of a moral slide in our country over the last 35 years,” Cathy says. “There’s just the Internet and what’s available on the Internet. There are a lot of temptations out there; you’ve just got to be on guard.”
Chick-Fil-A employees talk about values, too. Eric Stalling, who manages the Dwarf House in Forest Park, says that’s what brought him to Chick-Fil-A.
“The values here match more with my own personal values, and to see those values walked out the way Chick-Fil-A does them and the massive business success they’ve had” — Stalling turns to Cathy, smiles, then corrects himself and says “that we’ve had” — “that makes for an irresistible opportunity.”
And you get Sundays off, too.
Cathy says he usually attends the 10:45 a.m. service at First Baptist with his wife and parents. But where do they go for lunch afterward?
It’s a “little secret,” Cathy says.
“We usually go to Wendy’s afterward,” he says with a smile. “Get a little bit of a hamburger fix.”