Driven to do better

Ranson restaurateur’s truck is his Symbol of Success

RANSON – Bryan Ritter’s latest honor isn’t his alone, explains the 34-year-old operator of the Chick-fil-A at 165 Joshua M. Freeman Blvd. here.

   Named last month by the nationwide restaurant chain as one of just 69 winners of its Symbol of Success award, Ritter is quick to point to his staff as key to his achievement.

“Without them, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “I feel very blessed to have the chance to work with people who do their jobs so well.”

Bryan Ritter has led the Chick-fil-A in Ranson since it opened in 2009.

Chick-fil-A’s Symbol of Success award, initiated in 1975 by company founder S. Truett Cathy, is given to restaurant operators who meet aggressive sales goals.

To drive home the accomplishment, winners get to select a Ford vehicle to drive for a year.

Those who match or exceed the same level of performance the following year get to keep the car or truck for good.

Ritter – who began his career with Chick-fil-A as a 14-year-old cleaning tables and handing out nugget samples at the Apple Blossom Mall in his hometown of Winchester, Va. – says his store’s sales growth can be traced to the fact that his employees take pride in every aspect of their work.

“The Chick-fil-A model is to treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect,” Ritter said. “It’s the Golden

Rule. When you treat your employees well, they’re going to show that same level of caring to the guests.”

Many of Ritter’s 67 full- and part-time staff members have been with the store since it opened, he said.

Others have gone on to work at the corporate offices in Atlanta, to open their own franchises or otherwise move up the Chick-fil-A ladder.

“That’s very important to me – to make that investment in people,” said Ritter, who continued to work at Chick-fil-A as he pursued a degree in business administration from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

“I benefitted from that kind of mentoring and I’m happy when I can help others come up through the ranks.”

Chick-fil-A’s year-over-year sales have grown nonstop for more than four decades, company officials point out. For 2011, the chain reported system-wide sales of more than $4 billion – a 13.08 percent increase over its 2010 numbers.

As Ritter picked up his award during the chain’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Dan T. Cathy praised the Symbol of Success honorees: “Their persistent commitment to excellence in customer service and ability to provide unmatched product quality to each customer on every visit is what shapes and maintains our brand.”

Ritter, who lives with his wife Katie and daughters Addison, 4, and Anna, 9 months, in Stephens City, Va., says he was fortunate to learn from two business experts early on: Chuck Guffee, who introduced Chick-fil-A to the region 30 years ago by opening the location at the Winchester mall, and his late father, David Ritter, who was an oil company executive in Winchester.

“My father encouraged that entrepreneurial spirit in both my younger brother and me,” Ritter said. “Starting when we were very small, we were out mowing lawns and taking on work.

“As a young person, I saw how my dad treated his employees and the loyalty he enjoyed from them in return. And then when I started at Chick-fil-A, I saw Chuck Guffee doing many of the same things.”

His duties have changed since his start at Chick-fil-A nearly 19 years ago, Ritter said, but it’s still a job he loves. “What I like best is the interactions you get to have with people,” he said. “You develop relationships with your customers. You get to know your employees and have the opportunity to help young people develop their skills.

“If I can help someone, that’s a rush for me. To get to take care of people – I love that.”

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