Richard Hyatt

The Chick-fil-A cows are out to pasture

Those corny Chick-fil-A cows can’t spell a lick, but over the past 22 years they’ve sold millions of chicken sandwiches and saved the lives of herds of their four-legged friends.

Now the flourishing restaurant chain is putting the cows out to pasture — all in the name of change.

No one has a beef against the cows. They’ve been loyal, recognizing that when customers eat chicken sandwiches, they aren’t ordering burgers.

The late S. Truett Cathy founded The Dwarf Grill in 1946. Named because of its size, it fed generations of workers at a nearby Ford plant and the Atlanta airport. He perfected his trademark boneless chicken breast at that Hapeville location which became The Dwarf House.

Cathy opened his first quick-service restaurant in 1967 at a shopping mall in southwest Atlanta. The cows came along when the company began to expand into freestanding operations in 40 states.

The cows were the brainchild of an advertising agency in Texas. They helped Chick-fil-A become the nation’s largest chicken chain with annual sales of more than $5 billion.

Cathy died in 2014, and earlier this year the company hired a new marketing director. He has fired the agency and says the cows are nothing more than the company mascot.

“That’s what marketing directors do,” said retired advertising guru Jack Basset. “They fire advertising agencies. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them change the logo.”

Basset’s gifted soul is behind scores of local ad campaigns, including memorable TV spots where he cajoled Country’s Barbecue owner Jim Morpeth to pour glasses of iced tea on his head. Basset said clients must ask the question: Does it work for me?

“Mr. Cathy liked the cows. He liked that corny style of advertising. And it has been a great campaign. They’re running a great risk by making the change.”

Perhaps the sophisticated new guy doesn’t think the cows will sell outside the South. They’ve abandoned their original cole slaw in favor of a trendy kale salad and are tinkering with the menu that got them to the top.

Chick-fil-A’s move is akin to Coca-Cola’s disastrous switch to New Coke in 1985. It’s like Dan Amos clipping the wings of the Aflac Duck. Next thing you know, they’ll be opening on Sundays.

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at