Gone But Not Forgotten: Greenbriar Chick-fil-A

Patrons order at Chick-fil-A in Greenbriar Mall

Patrons order at Chick-fil-A in Greenbriar Mall on May 20, 2023. Tiffany Harte, Atlanta History Center

The satisfying crunch of waffle fries, the familiar taste of the original chicken sandwich, and a lemonade infused with memories—these were the flavors of Chick-fil-A at Greenbriar Mall.

On Saturday, May 20, 2023, loyal customers gathered for one last meal, not just to satisfy their hunger but to say goodbye to an establishment that had been more than just a restaurant; it had been a piece of home. 

Inside Greenbriar Mall

Inside Greenbriar Mall. Tiffany Harte, Atlanta History Center

The History of Chick-fil-A at Greenbriar Mall

Greenbriar Mall, today dealing with declining foot-traffic after having lost its final anchor store, Macy’s, and retaining only a few recognizable chains amidst a sea of boutiques, had a different story to tell when it first debuted in the vibrant South Atlanta neighborhood that shared its name in 1965. It was one of the first indoor malls in the South. It lacked dining options until Chick-fil-A opened its doors on November 24, 1967, not only becoming the very first Chick-fil-A restaurant but also a game-changer.

Impact on Food Courts 

According to the Chick-fil-A website, when the location first opened, the original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich was just 59 cents, and employees looked more like “soda jerks” with candy-striped aprons, ascots, and hats with ties. Amid skepticism about integrating restaurants into indoor shopping malls, Chick-fil-A emerged, squashing concerns about potential pest infestations. It set a precedent, proving that a restaurant could maintain high cleanliness standards within a shopping center, revolutionizing the concept of modern-day food courts, and enhancing the shopping experience. 

The food court at Greenbriar Mall. Tiffany Harte, Atlanta History Center

The Evolution of Chick-fil-A 

Beyond its influence on food court culture, the Greenbriar location played a pivotal role in shaping Chick-fil-A as a company.

A little more than 20 years prior to the opening of the Greenbriar Chick-fil-A, founder S. Truett Cathy embarked on his journey as a restauranteur by opening the Dwarf Grill in Hapeville in 1946. It was at the Dwarf Grill that the beloved Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, consisting of a chicken sandwich with two pickles on a toasted butter bun, was invented.

Recognizing the brand’s potential, Cathy decided to establish a franchise system. He entrusted the Greenbriar Chick-fil-A to Doris Williams, a former school cafeteria manager, marking a turning point for the company.  In 1984, after expanding to other mall food courts around the country, Cathy set up Chick-fil-A’s headquarters near downtown Atlanta. On April 16, 1986, Chick-fil-A ventured out of the mall space, opening its first free-standing restaurant on North Druid Hills Road.

Plaque commemorating Greenbriar Mall's Chick-fil-A

Plaque commemorating Greenbriar Mall’s Chick-fil-A. Tiffany Harte, Atlanta History Center

Farewell and Closure

The closure of the Greenbriar Chick-fil-A marks the end of an era for a restaurant that had become an integral part of the Atlanta community, and Atlantans showed tremendous support during its final days. The exact reasons for the shuttering of the Greenbriar Chick-fil-A are unclear, but the mall’s reduced foot traffic and Chick-Fil-A’s strategy to exit underperforming malls likely influenced the decision.  

Farewell, Greenbriar Chick-fil-A, you are gone but not forgotten. Your closure is not merely the end of a restaurant but the closing of a chapter in Atlanta’s culinary and cultural history. As malls evolve and the landscape of dining continues to change, your legacy as an innovator and community hub will continue to resonate with those who had the pleasure of enjoying a meal within your welcoming walls.