Chick-fil-A Celebrates 50 Years of Giving Back in Style

    The brand awarded its largest scholarship ever. But that was just the beginning.

    Chick-fil-A scholarship winner inside a restaurant.
    In 2023, 12 employees received True Inspiration Scholarships of $25,000.

    Chick-fil-A this year awarded north of $25 million in scholarships, a figure that spread across more than 13,000 employees and 13 community serviced-minded students in the U.S. and Canada. It also marked the 50th anniversary of Chick-fil-A’s efforts. Over five decades, the brand has helped roughly 93,000 employees to an investment of $162 million.

    In honor of 2023’s milestone, Chick-fil-A surprised Wilson, North Carolina, employee Malcom Jones with the Eddie White Servant Leadership Award for $50,000—the largest in company history. The one-time honor brought the brand full circle. Eddie White was its first scholarship recipient back in 1973. 

    In 2023, 12 employees received True Inspiration Scholarships of $25,000. And 13,000 are slated to land Leadership Scholarships of either $1,000 or $2,500, including the first Remarkable Futures Scholarship recipient in Puerto Rico.


    Additionally, the brand resumed its tradition of in-restaurant surprises (like the one for Jones). John White IV, who leads S. Truett Cathy (STC) Brands, visited the 12 True Inspiration Scholars and the Eddie White Servant Leadership Award recipient in units from Tempe, Arizona, to Watchung, New Jersey, over a four-day span. In Wilson, N.C, Eddie White also joined to meet Jones.

    The broader aim for Chick-fil-A has always been to foster a system that drives growth from the ground up. The chain conduced a 2022 survey of scholarship recipients and found 18 percent were first-generation college students and 60 percent said they were able to attend college because of their scholarship. Nearly 98 percent of 2022 scholarship recipients surveyed said scholarship opportunities were an important aspect of working in Chick-fil-A stores.

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    Chick-fil-A also announced its inaugural class of Community Scholars (read more about the program here). Thirteen scholarships of $25,000 were awarded to community service-minded leaders across the country who were not directly affiliated with Chick-fil-A, Inc. or a Chick-fil-A restaurant. These recipients were invited to the brand’s Support Center in Atlanta for what they thought was a final interview. It turned into a celebration instead.

    Throughout 2023, the Eddie White Servant Leadership Award recipient, True Inspiration Scholarship recipients, and Chick-fil-A Community Scholars award winners will have the opportunity to participate in an optional, one-year mentoring and leadership development program with Chick-fil-A.

    The company has long worked to separate its benefits through flexibility, such as:

    Up-front award: Chick-fil-A scholarships are awarded to recipients up front and can be directly applied to tuition, housing, and other on-campus expenses, without requiring tuition reimbursement.

    Applicable at any qualifying school, college or university: Scholarships can be applied in any area of study at any accredited institution of the recipient's choice, including two- or four-year colleges and universities, online programs, or vocational-technical schools.

    No employment tenure requirements (Remarkable Futures Scholarship initiative only): There is no requirement of hours worked or length of service to qualify. Both full-time and part-time restaurant employees at a franchised, company-owned and/or affiliated restaurant in the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico are eligible.

    QSR caught up with Jeff Davis, Chick-fil-A’s director of team member experience, to discuss the program’s 50 years, why it’s made a difference, and where it goes from here.

    Tell us about the 50th anniversary and what it signifies for Chick-fil-A.

    It’s exciting for us because we have the team membership scholarships, community scholars inaugural class, and then the 50 years. It’s been a big year, I would say. We’re so excited to be able to celebrate. Eddie White was not only the first scholarship recipient, but he was the first one who Truett really dug deep and connected with as a team member. And he wanted to make sure he supported him in college. So this year being the 50th, we wanted to have a one-time Eddie White Servant Leadership Scholarship award handed out in that memory. Just to be able to have Eddie White there with Malcom at the presentation was really huge as well, especially with him wanting to be an educator. To be awarded by an educator and by one of the first people who Truett supported as it relates to education was just really a special moment.


    Jeff Davis has been with the brand for more than nine years.

    What can we expect throughout 2023?

    I think as we look to continue this year, we want to make sure we carry the momentum forward with our scholarship program and education initiatives overall. We want to ensure we’re there to support operators and team members as best as possible. It’s life changing. It’s transformative. For the last few years, we’ve had a surprise element and awarded the True Inspiration Scholarship recipients here at the support center. And we decided to go back to the restaurant this year. I was able to attend one of them and it really is just, the emotions that were running through the restaurant that day, from the recipient to the recipient’s family to their team members to the operator, really spoke to how transformative this scholarship is. 

    Most of these individuals, when we chat with them, you realize that education might not be in their future if it were not for this scholarship opportunity. That speaks to how important our program is and how rich it is for the recipients and for those who apply.

    How does this reflect on Chick-fil-A’s DNA as a company?

    One thing we’ve been pretty intentional with is how do we continue to build our national employer brand? And one element is the idea of ‘many paths to potential.’ We know that this is a big hallmark of that. Our scholarship program enables opportunities for our team members to pursue the many paths of potential they may want to explore, whether it’s inside a restaurant or outside a restaurant. It’s exciting that this program is able to help enrich these individuals and help them pursue their dreams.

    I think about when I was there. Those individuals who received a True Inspiration Scholarship, they’re celebrities in their town for that day. You have the cameras around. The customers in the restaurant are celebrating as well. It’s truly a big honor and hallmark for them in their lives that they’ll never forget.

    How has it all come full circle?

    I think about what’s happened over the past 50 years. We want to make sure we continue to evolve. One, from a funding standpoint—make sure we have sufficient funds so we continue to support the growth of our team members. The number of team members who are growing, both domestically and internationally, we want to make sure we have the relevant measures in place and want to ensure we’re constantly reimagining what things can look like. This year, coming in, we said, ‘what is something special we can do?’ And that thing we could do was celebrate the 50 years with the one-time Eddie White Servant Leadership Scholarship.

    We’ll continue to look for those opportunities and mine them in a way that’s organic in nature, from both the team members and listening to operators as well. And find out what’s best to do going forward.

    What makes Chick-fil-A’s efforts on this front unique?

    We’ve always wanted to make sure we could serve all our team members as best as possible and make sure we have the correct eligibility requirements. You can be part time, you can be full time, there are no tenure requirements. And I think that’s something that’s very special with our program.

    Any post-graduate, secondary, undergraduate education, graduate school. Of those over 13,000 scholarship recipients, we have some who are in grad school, some in post grad, some in undergrad. They can be used for any credited university.

    It’s been truly an honor getting to be a part of it. It was breathtaking that whole week. We travelled everywhere from Arizona to New Jersey awarding 13 people in-restaurant and just seeing the array of emotions, I’m so thankful and honored to have this opportunity to be able to lead a team who is able to do this. 

    It’s a reminder of why I work at Chick-fil-A. It’s a reminder of what we do at Chick-fil-A. And it’s just energizing. There are so many people who reached out this week, who saw snippets of the videos and said, ‘this reminds me of why I work at Chick-fil-A.’ And that’s heartwarming.