Industry News | April 29, 2009

Church's CEO Chat Mostly Marketing

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Yesterday Church's Chicken President and CEO Harsha V. Agadi held a conference call reassuring the media that despite the recession the fried chicken quick-serve is doing better than ever, experiencing its sixth-consecutive year of same store sales growth and opening a new store every 60 hours.

“We are adding at the pace of almost $100 million of growth every single year for the last four years,” Agadi told listeners. “We’re growing at a furious rate.”

Agadi plans to continue that pace by targeting Church’s core demographic, a cross-generational mix of African Americans and Hispanic consumers.

“Their buying power in this country has crossed $1 trillion,” he said. “That’s the same size as the economy of India and smaller than China but might even pass China.”

While at times the call seemed like a brand pep rally, Agadi did offer up some insight into the company’s expansion strategy. Just last week the company debuted its first modular unit, which can be constructed and fully operational within 10 days of delivery.

In addition, Agadi emphasized the company’s interest in stimulating the economy through random acts of goodness—an initiative that’s tied to the company’s recently relaunched “Do You Know What Good Is” ad campaign.

For the next 30 days, for each new follower that joins the @ChurchsChicken Twitter feed the company will add $1 to its ‘dollar per follower’ pledge up to 10,000 followers.

From there, Agadi will award one random in-store Church’s customer with $1,000 on May 14. Consumers can find out about Agadi’s location via the company’s Twitter page.

The Church’s executive team will give away a total of $10,000 that day.

Agadi explained that during the tough economic times, Church’s recognizes that consumers need cash not “free food gimmicks.”

While much of the call was focused on consumers, Agadi occasionally broke his monologue and directly addressed his fellow CEOs.

At one point he pleaded with them to ask themselves what they could do to improve their communities and to embrace a new culture of transparency at their companies.

“Be open with your team members. Share your results, your concerns, and your triumphs, and they will help you more than you can realize,” Agadi said.

Despite the fact that the call was more marketing than informational, it did offer some insights into the privately held company that often go unreported.

--Blair Chancey