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From Behind the Register to Owning a Chick-fil-A Franchise

Some entrepreneurs start a business out of an idea. Others start a business that’s already been successfully built. In some cases, this is a franchise business. The owner is in charge and manages the location, but the brand is already well-known. Is this kind of business right for you? Let’s look at a Chick-fil-A franchise as an example.

The Beginning: Working at a Chick-fil-A Franchise

Marlon was working at a Chick-fil-A franchise while in high school from the time he was 16 until 18. He made his way to the Navy, studied engineering, and became a nuclear engineer on submarines. Pretty impressive! He did about 14 years of active duty, and then on the tail end of his career, he was looking for the next step. It felt natural to go back to what he knew in his heart: to be an entrepreneur.

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Entrepreneurs opt for this model because they can buy a proven business concept and get marketing, job training and management support from a national franchisor. –

So he applied to open a Chick-fil-A and be a business partner with them. And they basically said, “You’re part of the family, come back home.”

Getting Involved with the Chick-fil-A Brand

Chick-fil-A is a brand that sees you as the owner, operator, and who you are personally. They really want to know your story, where you came from, what you went through, how you got to where you are. Marlon said that’s more important than how much money you have in your pocket for the Chick-fil-A brand.


Chick-fil-A has over 30,000 people who are vying for that opportunity every year. Plus, they only partner with a hundred or so. Therefore, the odds are pretty slim. The reality is that it’s $10,000 out of pocket, and a lot of people can come up with that capital. So they need to be picky in other ways. 

According to the International Franchise Association, almost 4% of all small businesses in the U.S. are franchises.

Marlon told us that to be a Chick-fil-A operator you’ve got to be committed to serving people and have real, tangible stories of how you’ve cared for your environment, how you lead in your student or government body or you’ve lead at your job. And it’s not just leading, you’ve got to have a leadership role. This is why everyone who goes to a Chick-fil-A says, “Oh wow, this service is the best ever.” 


“And really what it comes down to is Truett Cathy. He was an amazing man of service, he was the founder of Chick-fil-A, and he makes it a point to only partner with people who have shown that same commitment to service in life. And he was an army guy before he even started his restaurant. So that’s what he’s always been about for his life,” Marlon told us.

Tips for a Franchise Business


For Marlon and his team, it’s about caring and having the basic respect to work hard, the desire to improve, and show up to work on time. And if you’re going to bring that to the table, then Marlon knows he can train and teach you everything else.

“I can’t tell you how many team members we’ve had that just didn’t seem like they were going to work out. And we just said, ‘Okay, we’ve got to find a place where you work out because you are the right person.’”

So basically, Marlon feels that finding the people with the right attitude is first and foremost when it comes to hiring. 

“We are in a fast-paced business that grows fast, and so sometimes we go on a hiring frenzy. And when we hire you we say, ‘Hey, you’re going to have to make a decision if you want to be part of this family. But we’re not going to make it easy for you to not be part of this family because we’re going to show you a lot of care, commitment, love, attention, correction.’ And it’s not necessarily just easy. But yeah, we’re going to try and work with you anytime.”

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Marlon has learned that change is good.

“I’ve learned that if you tell somebody you’ve changed, especially in our community, it can have a negative stigma. However, if you tell anybody that you evolved, it sounds great. While we know that evolution is really just a slow, steady, progressive change. And so, yeah, change is good.”

He also learned that we are all just much more the same, as human beings, than most people realize. This is especially true when you’re fighting for one cause. 


On the franchise business side, Marlon said he would urge businesses to consider putting someone in charge of talent and talent selections. And he knows that’s a hard investment to make because you feel like you can take care of that part. But if you need to grow the business, you need an operations person.

And maybe part of that is also picking the right social or HR platform. But for a company that has a lot of personnel and is starting to turn that corner to where they see a need to ramp up, Marlon thinks it’s really about the leadership team. Whoever is at the top of the business needs to have some really tough conversations about starting to form a strategy of finding those right people and how you hire, how you interview. 

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