Despite the recession, Chick-fil-A has continued to prosper, enjoying robust growth in sales and aggressive store expansion. I think I know why. Even without the spokescows asking us to “eat mor chikn,” Chick-fil-A has won a the approval of moms for understanding what we appreciate:
* Great service. Although the service is fast, it doesn’t feel rushed. Courteous people ask, “How can I serve you today?” Besides appreciating this as a customer, I’m pleased to see the behavior modeled for the kids.
* Indoor play areas that are well maintained and viewable from the dining area
* Healthy options like whole wheat buns (small upcharge) and grilled chicken
* Fruit cups with a variety of fruits, not just apples
* Kids’ meals with educational toys – not just movie promo trinkets – and the flexibility to swap the toy for an ice cream cone if your child prefers
* Good condiments: Real honey for your biscuit and the option of light mayo; ditto the real flowers on the tables, unheard of in fast food dining
* Hand-spun milkshakes (get one of these and bliss out while the kids play awhile longer)
* Community involvement, from school fundraiser nights to providing teachers and coaches with coupons they can use to reward their students’ academic efforts
* SEC sponsorship, starting off our beloved football season with the free chicken sandwich day
Chick-fil-A has figured out how to get families in the habit of visiting regularly. For example, one local Chick-Fil-A frequently provides coupons – such as a free kids’ meal with the purchase of a combo meal – for participants in Upward sports events. So where do you think all the players want to go for lunch after the Saturday morning game?
Chick-fil-A on highway 280 is one of the older freestanding restaurants, and it’s still so popular that it actually has police directing traffic during the weekday lunch rush (sounds like a franchisee’s dream). A friend of mine shares that she made a new mom friend there one day when she offered to share a table in the crowded dining room.
If all that wasn’t impressive enough, Chick-fil-A is scheduled to be debt-free in three years. Isn’t that remarkable? They should throw a ticker-tape parade with Dave Ramsey’s devotees or, better yet, celebrate by giving away celebratory lemonades…
I’m going to give Mr. Truett Cathy, age 88 and founder of the company, a pass for his casual comment in this article saying he typically looks for “family men” when selecting franchisees. For one thing, I am certain that any “family man” has a wife at home telling him what moms want and he has wisely learned to listen. For another, I will wager that good “family women” franchisees – i.e., moms – can keep his business attuned to his best customers.
Finally, I have adjusted to the fact that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. For ages it seemed that this was the one day I was likely to crave a chicken sandwich during a late afternoon run to the mall, and the dim storefront always seemed so forlorn. However, I now conceed it is a brilliant practice, both as a benefit for the employees and as an enticement for the rest of us to look forward to eating mor chickn on the following Monday.
Why I love Chick-fil-A on 119:
Last spring Coldplay had a concert at the Verizon Wireless Music Center, but I couldn’t commit to tickets because of my son’s potential playoff baseball game that evening. Sure enough, his team was in the playoffs (taking second place). After the game, hubs took the kids home while I raced to hwy 119 in hopes of hearing just a bar or two of Coldplay. I pulled into the Chick-fil-A parking lot on 119 with the restaurant just closing and the owner naturally patrolling to see his employees to their cars safely and making sure there were no loiterers (that would be me) in the parking lot.
As I sat with my window cracked – yes, I’m that much of a Coldplay fan – he drove by and I practically begged, “I couldn’t buy tickets because of a ballgame but I just want to hear a few tunes” – and this nice fellow smiled and said to enjoy the music before rolling on through the lot. Then I heard the beginning of “Clocks” echoing against Oak Mountain and I was satisfied I had gotten my fix before heading home. Here’s a shoutout and a thankyou to the Chick-fil-A on 119!