To understand the test kitchen, one must understand Chick-fil-A’s history
In the hallway we passed a timeline that listed out menu landmarks: the breaded chicken sandwich launched in '64, nuggets in '82, breakfast in '86, spicy chicken in 2010, and a new grilled chicken sandwich in 2014. Development of each item usually takes two years, which is an incredible amount of time to spend on something that will be eaten in two minutes.
The original Chick-fil-A was called the Dwarf House. It opened in 1946, got its name from the small size (10 stools, four booths), and sold grilled chicken steak sandwiches because they cooked faster than bone-in cuts. The restaurant was open 24 hours a day to serve the late shift from nearby Delta and Ford plants. Closing on Sunday was initially as practical a decision as it was spiritual: founder S. Truett Cathy badly needed a day to rest.
Speaking of S. Truett, just before I reached the kitchen I met an older man in a suit strolling with a whistle-while-you-work look on his face. He gingerly introduced himself as Dan from customer service. As soon as I saw his name tag I realized that this was Dan Cathy, CEO and son of the founder.
Like when a grandpa pulls a quarter from your ear, I played along with the trick, making a minute of small talk before Mr. Cathy walked off to a meeting where he would make billion dollar decisions about the menu. To cement his man of the people image, I was later shown a video of Mr. Cathy riding a hoverboard. I lobbied hard to help it go viral, but it was the only time anyone from Chick-fil-A told me no.