At a typical San Antonio Chick-fil-A, you’ll find a crowded kitchen running like clockwork. At the Medical Center location, the boss credits Chick-fil-A’s corporate success to a people-first strategy.
"Our product is chicken but we're in the people business,” says Mark Wasserman, a retired member of the United States Air Force who knows about leading people.
Wasserman spent 27 years on active duty, retiring as an Air Force colonel. For his second career, he found Chick-fil-A to be an ideal fit. It appealed to him because of its fast-food brand known for attracting hungry customers, particularly those interested in a distinctive French fry.
The company calls the waffle fry its No. 1 “crave-able” product. They’re all cut from potatoes grown in Washington State and fried in canola oil.
But the Chick-fil-A culture may be even more addicting.
“So it’s about people on both sides of the counter,” Wasserman said. “My guests, that is, my customers, as well as my team members."
Team members matter but so does community involvement, and Wasserman has gone above and beyond by partnering with local hospitals, St. Vincent de Paul, Haven for Hope, the United Way, and the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.
He even stepped up for Hurricane Harvey relief.
"So Mark reached out to our team and said, ‘I know that University Health System is in the middle of all this, and I'd like to be able to do something,’” recalled Lourdes Castro-Ramirez, president of the University Health System Foundation. “I’d like to be able to do something that tells these first responders and nurses and the team that we very much appreciate everything that you’re doing.”
"Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, was an incredibly generous man,” Wasserman explained. “And so he set the stage for all of us to follow."
But Wasserman has followed it better than most.
Case in point, Chick-fil-A sponsors a leadership academy for high schools and Wasserman tailored it for the Winston School, a local charter school for students with learning differences.
"It tells me that he always has time for the community, and he always finds time,” said Steven Yochum, head of the Winston Upper School. “It may not be that minute, but it's within five minutes. And he's always been a very responsive community member, and we've really appreciated him."
In addition, Wasserman calls San Antonio an ideal location for the company and its outreach ethic.
“So the culture [of San Antonio] is unique. It is festive, it is loving, it is family, it is service, it is sacrifice. I don't think you find that in very many communities, I just don't,” he said. “I think that we are unique.”
And so is he, uniquely generous, even among Chick-fil-A owners. That's why he's another one of the people who make San Antonio great.