Effective Interpersonal Communication the Chick-Fil-A Way

I admit it. I love Chick-Fil-A.

I know the restaurant chain has been mired in controversy lately. But I have  reasons for loving it!
Hear me out.
For starters, it has free wifi AND a clean playground, which means (as other working mommies know) that I can get work done while my children are active and occupied. 
Employees also come to your table every once in a while and refill your drink for you. You don’t even have to get up!

That alone makes me love it.

More importantly, though, as a branding strategist and communication coach, I love the way Chick-Fil-A employees engage with the customers.

According to a recent company statement, “The Chick-Fil-A culture and service tradition … is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect–regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

This culture and service tradition is on display every day in the restaurants. Perhaps the recent controversy has reminded Chick-FIl-A that respect for every person should permeate its corporate giving as well.

Interpersonal Communication

In a world where in-person communication skills are becoming more and more rare, Chick-Fil-A restaurants are staffed with folks who know how to interact with people in real life.

I have eaten in a lot of Chick-Fil-A franchises (because of my kids, I swear!) in several different states and my customer experience has been consistently positive.

That is NOT the case with any other fast-food restaurant. The occasional employee in the occasional fast-food restaurant might be reasonably personable or customer-service-oriented, but a positive experience is not typical. In fact, my customer experience in most fast-food restaurants is overwhelmingly negative.

So what is it that sets Chick-Fil-A apart?

1.  Smiles

If you read my blog often, you know I’m a big advocate of a friendly smile. It is the fastest and easiest way to show interest in another human being and put them at ease. Chick-Fil-A employees greet customers with a smile almost every single time.

2.  Smile in the Voice

The smile extends to the drive-through operators. They are perpetually cheerful and sunny. Even though you can’t see them, you can tell they are smiling into their headset. A huge contrast to the nasal, bored, couldn’t-care-less tone of most drive-through operators.

3.  Politeness

Chick-Fil-A employees ask “how can I serve you?” (not how can I help you), and they ask as if they actually mean it. They also say “please” and “thank you” and “it’s my pleasure” with enthusiasm and ease. The mere fact that the employees routinely use these common courtesies would set Chick-Fil-A apart, but the employees seem to genuinely embrace the sentiment and not just the script.

4.  Attention to Detail

Chick-Fil-A excels at thoughtful details. There are disposable place mats to protect kids from any germs that might be lurking on the tables. There are complimentary cheerios for those too little to enjoy the menu. There is hand sanitizer available right outside the playground. And did I mention the employees come by and offer to refill your drinks? Best of all, Chick-Fil-A employees pay attention to orders and get them right the vast majority of the time.

5.  Positive Attitude

Perhaps, most importantly, Chick-Fil-A employees maintain a positive attitude while interacting with customers. I have never seen a Chick-Fil-A employee sigh, roll their eyes, or act bored, disgruntled, or surly. They graciously respond to customer requests and complaints, recognizing their job is to create a positive experience for everyone who comes through the restaurant doors.


Chick-Fil-A’s commitment to engagement and positive interpersonal communication within its stores makes it unique among fast-food restaurants. Communicators can learn a lot from their customer service example.

Here’s hoping, the controversy won’t eclipse the things Chick-Fil-A is doing right, and will serve as a reminder to the restaurant chain that their in-store customer service philosophy should be applied to all its transactions.

Treating everyone with “honor, dignity and respect” is an important key to effective communication.

Develop effective communication skills through public speaking and presentation workshops!


Have you noticed a difference between the customer service at Chick-Fil-A and other fast-food restaurants? Share your positive customer experiences with any business in the comments below.

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