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Bastrop Chick-fil-A owner rose to top quickly

By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer/photographer

Ryan Saum wasn’t born in Bastrop, but he’s known it well since his youth.

Ryan Saum, owner-operator of Bastrop Chick-fil-A (Terry Hagerty Photos)“I grew up coming to Bastrop. Once a year our family came to Bastrop State Park – Bastrop was always this comfortable family-oriented place. It became our meeting place,” said Saum, owner-operator of Bastrop’s Chick-fil-A restaurant in the Burleson Crossing shopping center. Saum will mark his one-year anniversary on Sept. 1 as owner-operator of the popular Bastrop eatery.

And he has been on a fast track since he joined the company. Saum, now 26, completed the company’s Leadership Development Program in 18 months, a process which normally takes two to two and a half years.

Saum was a grand-opening supervisor for Chick-fil-A, before he became an owner. “I was on the road for 18 months – a different city every nine weeks, supporting new (franchise) openings,” He had learned the Chick-fil-A business from the ground up. “I started out scooping nuggets, breading chicken, and squeezing lemons,” he said. His hard work and dedication led to promotion to team leader and then restaurant director, which helped propel him to being an owner-operator. He is also modest about his success. “To go from starting out in the kitchen of a South Austin (Chick-fil-A), to being an owner-operator in three years speaks not to me, but the opportunities Chick-fil-A presents in leadership and development,” he said.

Friendly service

For the Bastrop franchise, Saum said he has “full autonomy” as the owner-operator, including hiring, promotions and daily operations.” He said Chick-fil-A’s success is built on “the owner being in here every day, being part of the team and the operation. It’s true hospitality here.” He has a staff of approximately 75 people, ranging in age from 16 to senior citizens.

He was born and raised in Austin, attended Bowie High School and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in the Education Department’s Youth & Community Studies program. “I thought I might be a church minister” he said of his initial plans. And his business life remains a ‘family affair’: his wife Anna works for Chick-fil-A corporate offices, he said. And she’s an Aggie, having attended Texas A&M. But it’s a friendly rivalry. Saum demonstrated the hand sign that results when combining the Longhorn ‘hook-em’ sign with the Aggie ‘gig em’ sign – “It’s the universal sign for love,” Saum said. “She’s a blessing to the business,” he added of his wife’s commitment to the Chick-fil-A brand.

Chick-fil-A drive-thruSince 1957, Chick-fil-A has been the “home of the Original Chicken Sandwich” but there’s much more! Saum said of the famous sandwich: “It’s fresh and we bread our own chicken. Then it’s pressured-cooked in 100 percent peanut oil,” adding that the pressure cooking “seals in the juices of the chicken.”

Saum is also heavily involved in the Bastrop community when he gets a break from his busy schedule. He is a member of the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce Education Committee. He will also start a Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy at Cedar Creek High School in September. It’s a year-long program to teach students leadership qualities. He said students could “potentially be (Chick-fil-A) employees in the future, but they don’t have to be. I’m passionate about sharing information and opportunities you’ve been given.”

Ryan is happy to be in Bastrop.“We’re a Chick-fil-A family. We’re hoping for a chicken-mini,” he said of eventually expanding the family. He is also grateful for his career path: “I am thankful to be a 26-year-old who found their career...that I plan to be in forever.”

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of posts featuring Bastrop businesses. Check back during the last week of September for our next installment!