The Chick-fil-A Language Upgrade

It’s been a long wait, but finally us Chicagoans can bite into the deliciousness of the Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken sandwich with a side of those crowd-pleasing waffle fries. And as a handful of us at work ventured to one of the newly opened stores this week, there were some things I was expecting beyond the food.

I’m no stranger to Chick-fil-A. I’m very aware of its Christian ownership and the dedication to make this fast food experience different than most. So, as I approached the counter, I knew there was going to be something different. The workers are trained to ask, “How may I serve you?” when you first walk up to the counter. And when you thank any employee in the restaurant, their reply is not “you’re welcome,” but “my pleasure.” It’s all part of the company’s intentional strategy to show that the employees are happy and that serving the customer comes first.

So as we were eating lunch, I asked one of the employees, in a joking manner, what the penalty was for not saying those distinguishing lines. Here’s a scaled-down, not completely word-for-word, breakdown of the conversation.

Nice Woman: “Can I take your tray and refresh your drink?”

Jerod: “Sure. Thanks.”

Nice Woman: “My pleasure.”

Jerod: “Hey…by the way, what’s the punishment if you don’t say ‘my pleasure’ or ‘how may I serve you?’ Don’t get me wrong, I love that you guys do that.”

Nice Woman: (laughing) “There’s no punishment. It’s just part of our language upgrade. I’m a manager from another store just here helping with the grand opening. I train a lot of people and sometimes they’ll say ‘you’re welcome’ and then look at me all scrambled and say, ‘I’m sorry…I mean my pleasure.’ I laugh and tell them, ‘Don’t worry. You don’t have to always say the exact phase. It’s more important that you be genuine.’ We just want that to be part of our culture.”

Jerod: “Thanks for the explanation.”

Nice Woman: “My pleasure.”

All the co-workers at my table in unison as she walked away: “Church Juice post.”

There were definitely key phases that stood out to me as she was talking. I’d never heard the term language upgrade. What an awesome idea to publically say, “We realize how everyone else communicates and we want to be better.”

And in that pursuit of being better, I love the message that it’s more important to be genuine than to force some sort of scripted language all the time. Instead, make your core values a part of your culture.

What would happen if we took this philosophy and put it into use in our churches? What if we were intentional about having our staff and volunteers use a language upgrade? Instead of always taking like other churches, often in a Christianese language that an outsider doesn’t understand, we should be intentional about what we say. We should be purposeful in incorporating our core values as a church into our culture in a genuine way. And we need to make sure our language reflects that.

How about you? Does your church use a language upgrade? Do you spend time training people to communicate a certain way?

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