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Church reasoned that the food service industry would have to change its approach in order to capitalize on the opportunities created by population growth and increased mobility. By cutting the frills common to the restaurant industry philosophy of the day, Church felt he could deliver his product profitably at low cost with a more efficient use of capital and employees.

The first "Church's Fried Chicken to Go" was located in downtown San Antonio, across the street from the Alamo. The restaurant sold only fried chicken. Church added French fries and jalapeños to the menu in 1955. George Church's idea paid off, and at the time of his death in 1956, four Church's were open. Other members of the family became active in the business, and by 1962 the chain had grown to eight locations in San Antonio.

Church and his management team stuck to the basics, and from 1962 to 1965 concentrated on rapid but tightly controlled expansion limited to the San Antonio area. By 1965, Bill Church and his older brother Richard had perfected a marinating formula for Church's Fried Chicken that could be re-created almost anywhere in the world. The formula remains a closely guarded secret.

The Church family was bought out in October 1968, and in May 1969 Church's Fried Chicken, Inc. became a publicly held company. At the end of 1969, over 100 Church's restaurants were in operation in seven states. Between 1969 and 1974, Church's grew by an additional 387 restaurants. At year-end 1974, there were 487 Church's in 22 states with total revenues of more than $100 million. The highlight of this period was the opening of the national headquarters complex and manufacturing plant on a six-acre site in northwest San Antonio.

Known for its home-style chicken, Church's also serves home-style specialties including fried okra, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and its unique honey butter biscuits.

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