If you have visited Chick-Fil-A in Paducah, it’s likely you’ve exchanged pleasantries with Mark Riley. Mark has been a Chick-Fil-A Owner/Operator for nearly thirty years here in Paducah. He owned and operated the Kentucky Oaks Mall location from 1991 to 2010. On July 15, 2010, he opened Paducah’s free-standing Chick-Fil-A location. What Mark delivers to our community is far more than just great chicken. In fact, that is the message Mark uses to empower his team. He tells them, “Remember this when things get chaotic, we are doing more here than just making chicken sandwiches.”
Mark began his career as a youth pastor. In fact, Mark still considers himself a pastor, just in a non-traditional environment. He and his management team invest significantly into each staff member.
His management style is guided by three principles: be a better boss, cast a vision for brighter futures through personal, professional and spiritual development opportunities, and provide a bigger vision by ensuring employees see their role with Chick-Fil-A as more than just a job. These aren’t just words on a mission statement for Mark and his team. There is a flurry of activities taking place in the restaurant on a daily basis that demonstrates that commitment.
At the time of this interview, Chick-Fil-A was in the middle of their school spirit week activities. Local schools were each assigned a day where a portion of the sales were donated back to that school of the day. “Teachers are spending their own money for supplies for their classrooms. We wanted to help with that. The funds from spirit day are being donated back to the schools to help teachers provide needed educational supplies for their classrooms,” explained Mark.
In the coming year, Mark and his team will be hosting several events to benefit Families on the Spectrum, a local non-profit organization that provides fun family outings, meetings, parents’ nights out, and community support to families affected by autism. “I want my employees to connect deeply with the individuals in our community. Again, I want them to know that what they do here is more than just make a great chicken sandwich. We have several customers who are on the spectrum. As we host this ongoing series of events with Families On the Spectrum, our employees will get to know them and their unique needs as we simultaneously give back to benefit this important non-profit organization.”
“My job gives me the opportunity to minister and teach a lot of people each and every day,” says Mark. “My goal is simply to love people and honor them with dignity and respect.” This year that dedication extends beyond the walls of the restaurant into two area high schools. The Chick-Fil-A Paducah team will start the Chick-Fil-A Leader Academy at McCracken County High School. The seven-month program invests in student leaders to teach servant leadership with a variety of community-based service opportunities.
Mark and his management team are always on the hunt for great employees. “I wish people lined up to work here in the way they line up to eat here,” he joked. Mark credits God for the people around him and his many blessings. He exudes patience and is working hard to create a loving, caring environment that is full of growth opportunities for people who come to work for him. In fact, when asked to recall an accomplishment he’s most proud of, he told a story about Julie Cassity, the owner of Paducah’s Culver’s restaurant. “Julie was my general manager for many years. I hated to see her leave. She was part of our family. It makes me feel great seeing how she grew during her years with Chick-Fil-A and how she is now fulfilling her dream.”