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Why is Chick-fil-A closed on Sundays?

Chick-fil-A has been closed on Sundays since its founder S. Truett Cathy opened his first restaurant in Georgia in 1946.
A sign hangs outside of a Chick-fil-A restaurant.
A sign hangs outside of a Chick-fil-A restaurant.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Once upon a time, it wasn’t uncommon for restaurants to close on Sundays, but the practice has largely fallen by the wayside in recent decades. At Chick-fil-A, however, Sunday closures are a tradition that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.

Not sure where the practice originated? Here's a little bit of insight into the restaurant’s history.

How long has Chick-fil-A been closed on Sundays?

Per the company's website, Chick-fil-A has been closed on Sundays since the late S. Truett Cathy opened his first restaurant in Georgia in 1946.

“Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours, Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose — a practice we uphold today,” the website reads.

Hours vary, but the majority of Chick-fil-A restaurants are open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The tradition has religious roots.

Sunday is traditionally the day of worship for several religions, and Cathy gave his employees the option to use this day off to attend church services.

The Chick-fil-A corporate purpose also has religious roots: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

What did Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy say about the tradition?

In his 2002 book “Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People: Doing Business the Chick-fil-A Way,” Cathy elaborated on his decision to keep his restaurants closed on Sundays.

“We were not so committed to financial success, however, that we were willing to abandon our principles and priorities. One of the most visible examples of this was our decision to close on Sundays.(My brother) Ben and I had attended Sunday school and church all our lives, and we were not about to stop just because we owned a restaurant,” he wrote.

Cathy continued by describing the decision to close on Sundays as a way of “honoring God and directing our attention to things more important than our business.”

In his book, Cathy outlined his goal to maintain this practice.

“My brother Ben and I closed our first restaurant on the first Sunday after we opened in 1946, and my children have committed to closing our restaurants on Sundays long after I’m gone. I believe God honors our decision and sets before us unexpected opportunities to do greater work for Him because of our loyalty,” he wrote.

In 2007, Cathy spoke with Reuters about the tradition and said his children vowed to keep the restaurant closed on Sundays when he died.

“I have a commitment from my three children that they will keep it private,” he said at the time. “And that we’ll always close on Sunday.”

Chick-fil-A even has a video about Sunday closures on its website.

A video on the Chick-fil-A website details Sunday closures in the following caption: “It’s not about being closed. It's about how we use that time. So while we’re off today, we hope you can be with your family and friends. That’s the thought behind each Sunday story — delivering recipes, activities and inspiration that might bring you a little closer together.”

The tradition also has secular motivations.

In 2017, Chick-fil-A senior director of talent operations Jodee Morgan told Thrillist that the chain closes its restaurants on Sundays for non-religious reasons, too.

“It’s really about getting that work-life balance right,” she said.

Morgan elaborated on the matter, saying, “We have more than 80,000 team members that represent almost every point of diversity and lifestyle. This day off is for people to spend time with their friends, their families, to do what they want. They absolutely have the choice to do whatever they want on their day off. Truett Cathy’s choice was based just as much in the practical points of running a business as his beliefs.”

Chick-fil-A has made its stance on Sundays crystal-clear over the years.

In theory, Chick-fil-A could be making more money if its restaurants stayed open on Sundays, but that hasn't influenced the powers-that-be to change their stance on Sunday closures.

In 2017, a Chick-fil-A stand opened up at a football stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Many fans were perplexed when they found out that it wouldn’t be open on Sundays.

“While we serve Chick-fil-A at several stadiums throughout the country, we have always adhered to our founder’s commitment to close on Sundays,” John Mattioli, senior manager of partnerships and activation marketing at the chain, told TODAY.com at the time. “It gives our team members a chance to take a day of rest.”

In 2019, National Sandwich Day fell on a Sunday. Chick-fil-A emailed customers promoting the day but baffled many since the chain is closed on Sundays.

The company then sent a cheeky apology note with the following subject line: “Well … this is awkward.”

“We recently sent an email that included a message about National Sandwich Day, which naturally we were very excited about,” the email read. “We didn’t realize it falls on Sunday when we are closed. We apologize for the confusion and hope to see you soon (Monday-Saturday).”