My First Memory of Truett Cathy


It was late on a Friday afternoon during 1960 when I called to tell Oleta, my wife, that I was on the way home.

“We have friends coming over this evening,” she reminded me. “Stop and pick up something to eat. It has been a hectic day, and I did not cook.”

I stopped at the Dwarf Grill even though it was slightly off my usual route home. We liked the food, and the owner and his employees were especially nice and friendly to their customers.

When I walked in the door, Truett Cathy, the owner, warmly greeted me. It seemed like Truett was always in his restaurant during the busy times, and Friday evening was one of his busiest times.

Truett chatted with me as he took my carryout order for Dwarfburgers. He asked, “How many people will be eating?” I answered, “There will six of us.”

When he handed me the bag with my food to go, he also handed me a whole Lemon Meringue Pie, and said, “Have your dessert on me.”

I was flabbergasted! A whole lemon pie? Free?

Oleta and I did not eat there often and Truett hardly knew us. He bought restaurant supplies from the company where I worked, but he was not my customer.

That was not the first time we had greeted or spoken to each other, but it is my first definite memory of the person, Truett Cathy.

Why would he give me a whole lemon pie for free?

That Friday evening, two clear pictures of what made this man, Truett Cathy, a unique and successful businessman began to take shape.

First, Truett was kind. He truly enjoyed being thoughtful and generous.

In his 68 years in the restaurant business, he gave away more food than most restaurateurs have sold.

He especially liked to give people his Lemon Meringue Pies. They had a wonderful taste and were beautifully made. For his pies, he used freshly squeezed lemons and a piled high, hand sculptured beautiful meringue topping that was so consistently and uniformly shaped many people thought the lemon pies must be made by a machine.

It was usual and frequent that Truett would visit someone who was sick at home, just released from the hospital or at a family gathering after a funeral. When he went, he often took food, especially Lemon Meringue Pies.

One time he carried food out and loaded it into his station wagon to take to someone sick at home. When he stopped for a traffic light, a man drove up beside him, honked his horn and pointed to the roof of Truett’s station wagon. When Truett pulled over to the curb and got out, he found his lemon pie was still on the roof, but most of the meringue had been blown away!

Truett was also a business builder.

His original Dwarf Grill restaurant location, opened in 1946, has been in operation for 68 years. Sales have increased every year but one; the year he opened another Dwarf House near by.

His first Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in 1967. Chick-fil-A sales have increased every year for 47 years.

I don’t know if Truett was aware that I had never tasted his Lemon Meringue Pie the day he gave me the free pie. I have often wondered, but cannot remember; did he ask me if I had tried his lemon pie? Maybe he did. I am confident that I had never tasted them because I thought I did not like lemon pie. I always chose chocolate or coconut pie when I went to his restaurant.

I do know that when Truett gave me that free pie, he left a permanent mark in my memory.

Truett Cathy was a kind and smart businessman.

I am glad that I choose a kind and smart businessman, Truett Cathy, for my boss.

Choose Your Boss is the first Principle of Creative Followership.

Choose Your Boss

Jimmy Collins