“Heart, soul and chicken salad,” that’s what they believe at Chicken Salad Chick. The Alabama based fast restaurant chain has taken the US by storm. Their concept of fresh salads with a southern touch is something that left everyone asking for more. Founded by Stacy and Kevin Brown in 2008, the restaurant chain witnessed enormous success in 2019.
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The 2019 Success Report
But what makes Chicken Salad Chick stand out? The popular chain under CEO Scott Deviney has expanded across 16 states with 149 restaurants. According to the fast restaurant chain, 2019 has been the most triumphant year in company history. Chicken Salad Chick completed Q4 with forty new restaurants in the last year of the decade. This comprised its virgin locations in Ohio and Illinois. The year also witnessed the first leg of the chain’s Georgia debut. Stacy Brown seemed exhilarated with the restaurant’s grand opening in the city of Rome, Georgia, her hometown. The fast-expanding brand has also signed 26 new franchise agreements to develop 60 debut restaurants in 2019. These include the long targeted markets of Kansas City, Austin, and Boca Raton.
Scott Deviney said that he is incredibly proud of all that the team has accomplished and that none of it would have been possible without the tireless work of the outstanding team and dedicated franchise owners. The idea, Deviney said, has always been to spread joy, enrich lives and serve others. Deviney believes that it’s integral to keep the momentum going by continuing with the accelerated expansion plans. The goal is to bring Chicken Salad Chick closer to different communities across the key region of the US.
2019 has been a benchmark year for the brand that essentially serves chicken salads with a southern touch. Chicken Salad Chick welcomed its 16th consecutive quarter for the fourth consecutive year of same-store sales growth- $153.3 million in system sales and a 4.4 per cent increase in comp sales over the years. The brand plans to open 400 units by 2025.
The Ingredients of Success
In a world dominated by multiple fast chain concept restaurants, what makes Chicken Salad Chick stand out? If you head over to the brand’s official website, you might get a peek into why! The brand is very clear about what they are doing- selling Southern-inspired fresh chicken salad. There is a message from the original chick, Stacy, the founder of the brand. The message speaks loud about the brand Chicken Salad Chick aspires to be. Stacy says that she has always been on a quest of finding the perfect chicken salad. But she quickly found out how the perception of the “perfect” recipe varied from one person to another. Stacy also noticed that the South had some strong opinions on chicken salad. So, she did what any good businessperson would do, she incorporated it all! She took the help of her husband and neighborhood and started Chicken Salad Chick as a haven for all chicken salad lovers.
So what did Stacy do right? Instead of going all out by herself, she took in the feedback of the people that mattered. A business becomes successful only for the people it serves. It is the people, whose opinion and feedback matters the most. If your customers like your burger with more mayo, you put in more mayo. If they want salads that they are used to, you make salads that will wow them! It’s simple really. Just listen carefully to people and you will know what they want from you.
Understanding business strategy with an example
Stacy’s business strategy can be best explained by looking at another example. Remember Disney+ making the big splash and raining on Netflix’s parade? Disney shook its target audience and the entire industry when it announced that the streaming service would come at $6.99 a month. It means only $69.99 a year. An article circulating on LinkedIn praised Disney for having the guts while stating that it did everything, Netflix didn’t. Disney listened to its audience and incorporated everything which Netflix ignored. For starters, Disney reduced the price. Many people find Netflix to be an expensive pastime.
In addition to having lower-priced packages than Netflix, Disney Plus also rolled in the bundle subscription deal. It allows subscribers, access to Hulu and Espn Plus for just $12.99 a month. This brings down the price of individual Disney + subscription to $4.33 per month.
Netflix, on the other hand, charges $15.99 for its premium account which lets you stream across 4 devices. Its $8.99 Basic account only enables streaming on a single device at a time. The Standard plan of $12.99 enables two streams simultaneously.
This example shows how listening to your consumers and knowing your competitor can be fruitful for your business. Stacy did what the other salad chains didn’t; he ensured that Chicken Salad Chick’s recipes are fresh, innovative and reflective of real people’s tastes and choices. The salad chain also opened a catering menu and kid-specific menu for accommodating its growing consumer base. They chose a fair price unlike the high-end salad chains, kept the recipes real and concentrated more on the value of food than on their retail value.
Shifting to a customer-centric approach
The importance and effect of a customer on business have undergone several changes. For instance, marketers have shifted from a product-centric approach to a customer-centric one. While the former focused on innovative product development, the latter gave more importance to the consumer.
When Henry Ford came up with the Ford Model T, he said that consumers could have any color as long as it was black. It became a landmark statement by Ford which showed confidence in their product. All through 1914 to 1925, the Model T only came in variants of black. Black dried off fast, so it made it easier for Ford to mass-produce the automobile in black.
Now, let’s pose a question- Will a similar approach work today? From 1926 onwards, the Ford Model T came in different colors including green, light blue, brown, maroon and black. Ford had to do that to stand up to its emerging competitors. Marketers since understood that it’s the consumer who guides the product and not the other way round. Chicken Salad Chick is an excellent example of a business listening closely to its consumers. They not only developed a whole variety of salads but added a story behind each.
A ‘fresh’ approach to business
While there is salad spot every two-blocks in New York, people still want more! Chicken Salad Chick is not the first salad chain in America and it definitely will not be the last. But their concept is fresh, albeit with a personal touch. People love stories, which is why concept dining is on the rise. They are always craving to know a little more than what is shown. Chicken Salad Chick not only sells salads with a southern touch but it also develops relationships with the consumers. The flavors on the menu are named after real people in main chick, Stacy’s life. This is one of the first rules of customer-centric marketing. Adding personalized messages, names and content, helps a business go beyond just marketing. It enables them to develop a personal relationship with the customer, much beyond the scope of business.
Lauryn’s Lemon Basil, Classic Carol, Fancy Nancy, Olivia’s Old South are some of the salad dishes offered by the salad chain. These names not only ignite the consumer’s imagination but help them formulate a personalized relationship with the brand. Each salad tells a different tale of a sassy best friend, a wise nanna, a fancy neighbor, tales you as a visitor would connect to.
How to shift to a consumer-centric approach
If you are a business looking to incorporate a consumer-centric marketing approach, here are a few tips:
Often in life, you have heard, “Put yourself in my shoes.” Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a better way to understand someone. It is also a legit way of truly decoding feelings in a specific situation. Even though you and the other person had different upbringings, by putting yourself in his shoes, you will be encouraged to think more like him. The same applies to your business. Know what your consumer is thinking. If they want more varieties of food, lower prices, better restaurant ambiance, more color variants, etc.
You can have the most groundbreaking idea, but if the customer fails to appreciate it, the business fails. The idea is to convince and woo your customers. Your ideology may vary from your customers, but it’s on you to make them believe otherwise. Think of the customer as an extended part of the team; know their preferences, their current wants, and their problems. If you are a food-chain, hold surveys amongst visiting customers to record their feedback. Utilize the feedback to bring about new changes. Have an app to reward their experiences, ask them what they want and your customers are bound to be happy.
Bill Macaitis, a marketing leader and advisor believes that companies and marketing professionals become increasingly myopic over the years. He says that professionals and CEOs start becoming short-sighted about the industry, company, and product. Bill hence thinks that it’s crucial to employ the right market intelligence, the right customer listening, and the right tools to fully understand what’s happening. Marketers can be blinded by their own expertise and assumptions, which is why it’s important to take a step back and reflect on customer feedback.
2. Utilize long-term metrics for better consumer insights
We are living in a world bombarded by alternatives and options. With consumers becoming less sensitive to repetitive advertisement and brand information, it becomes difficult to stand out. Long-term metrics hence plays a vital role in gathering true information about the consumer. What they see, what they like to eat, what captures their fancy and so on. However, employing the wrong metrics will only give irrelevant information which is not truly reflective of the actual consumer insight.
Management guru, Peter Drucker said that if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS is popularly used by millions of companies across the globe to measure customer loyalty. The metric was first introduced by Bain and Company in 2003. The scores are calculated with a singular question survey and range between numbers from 0 to 100.
You might have often come across a question like this is retail stores or restaurants, how likely are you to recommend this brand to a friend? Respondents may be given a choice between 0-10, with 0 denoting ‘not likely at all’ and 10 denoting ‘highly likely’. Brands eliminate the neutral responses and do an aggregate of the scores. NPS is an effective way of understanding customer perception about any subject related to your brand.
Integrating Voice of the Customer methodologies
Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a term used for defining customer feedback in sync with their aspirations, expectations, and experiences associated with a brand. Analyzing VoC helps one understand their target audience in a better capacity. It guides the brand and tells them exactly what a customer demands of them, and how they can bring about changes. VOC programs are considered a core business strategy in today’s world and give critical insight into consumer behavior and decision-making process.
3. Enhance customer experience
It’s all well to use metrics for knowing your customer better, but simultaneous actions need to be taken. If you want your business to be consumer-centric, ensure that you are present both offline and online. For instance, it pays to have a user-friendly website. As mentioned in the article above, Chicken Salad Chick has an extremely detailed website. Everyone goes online for checking information. A well-developed website with relatable content only makes it better. It ensures that customers find you credible while also feeding them otherwise unknown information. You may regularly visit an outlet but not know of their catering services. The idea is to provide a seamless customer experience.
Equip your staff to know all about your products. They should be ready to answer any questions about your products/services.
Unless all your employees have a clear vision of your brand’s ideals, it will be difficult to communicate to the customer. Chicken Salad Chick hence witnessed landmark success and makes a good point for getting marketing lessons correct.