The redesign fits with Chester’s recent digital refresh, which began in 2020 and features a new website, improved training tools for franchisees, a simplified logo, new packaging, and a newly constructed digital menu board. With the website in particular, the prior version maintained a business-to-business message about franchising. But now, the website appeals to customers with elevated fried chicken photography.
“I think we've got a really loyal, almost cult following for Chester's,” Culpepper says. “We want to build on that and grow, and I think that's what the website was really designed to do, lean into the BTC [business to consumer] message.”
The redesign can also be utilized as a tool to stimulate franchise growth, including the modular kitchen, which can be resized to fit any space.
“Everyone's looking for a way to grow margins, and it's very competitive out there,” Culpepper says. “So you have to have something new and fresh.”
Chester’s new store designs were already underway when the pandemic hit about a year and a half ago.
COVID forced the brand to take a step back and reassess, especially with the lack of traffic to travel centers.
“Our whole world has been shaken a little bit,” Culpepper says. “We did not sit idle. We went back and looked at every training material—every piece of training material that we've ever created—and asked ourselves the question of are we doing this process right? What can we do differently?”
Chester’s forged ahead, with much help coming from convenience stores and supermarkets that've thrived since the earliest of business shutdowns.
The company still adjusted some of its business strategy, such as placing a greater emphasis on grab-and-go options. By launching a lineup of chicken sandwiches (and sparking its entrance into the chicken sandwich wars), the chain added to its repository of products it could easily wrap.
This allowed Chester’s to be in different areas of the store, like near a cash register, meaning more potential customers would see its products. This move brought a lot of traction, Culpepper says.
Moving toward grab-and-go also helped on the labor front, which is still quite the challenge for Chester’s since the brand relies on workers to hand-bread and fry chicken each day. But optimism remains as the brand plans to open five more updated locations in Love’s buildings by the end of 2021. The company continues to look for growth opportunities in convenience stores and supermarkets as well as other nontraditional channels like ghost kitchens, college campuses, and airports.
More menu innovation is on the horizon, as well. Chester’s will roll out new mac and cheese, green beans, and mashed potatoes sides, with other new product initiatives coming soon.
All new stores will have Chester’s brand refresh, and franchisees will update counter graphics, menu boards, and put up new exteriors by 2024.
With locations in 48 states, Culpepper says Chester’s is open to any region, depending on the best opportunity with the right partner.
The brand's goals are clear: keep delivering delicious food in surprising places and continuously improve.
“We believe highly in our product and we just want to keep getting better,” Culpepper says