These are pretty robust numbers for a concept inspired by a call from the health department. Stacy Brown was selling her chicken salad recipe door-to-door in Auburn, Alabama, when local health officials told her she couldn’t legally market food cooked at home. Along with Kevin Brown, her partner and future husband who passed away in 2015 after a two-year battle with cancer, Stacy set up her first brick-and-mortar spot in 2008.
Deviney met Kevin through a mutual friend. They were looking for a capital infusion and the next round of leadership to take Chicken Salad Chick up a notch, to where Stacy always thought it could be: a household name. Deviney believed it could get there. “Our philosophy when we took over was don’t mess it up, because everything was working, so just don’t go in there and mess it up,” Deviney says.
There were plenty of areas to grow, however. Site selection, marketing, and shoring up Chicken Salad Chick’s franchise structure were immediate targets.
Deviney believes in an 80/20 percent split between corporate and franchise stores. When there were 85 units, 16 were company owned.
“I think it also helps our franchise owners whenever there’s a new initiative or whatever the case might be, testing products or whatever. If we can say that we’ve done it ourselves, we put our money there, we’re not just asking our owners to put money into their market and we haven’t done the same,” he says. “We’re sitting there right alongside them.”
In fact, Deviney and his team are the largest franchise owners in the system. The closest operator runs 11 Chicken Salad Chicks. There’s a reason for that, too.
Chicken Salad Chick tends to target smaller markets where its owner can step in and be the mayor in their community, as Deviney puts it. For the most part, the brand won’t sell any development deals bigger than 10 stores. There are currently 42 franchise owners in the system and Deviney estimates five to 10 are single-store franchisees.
Chicken Salad Chick is in nine states, mostly in the Southeast and as far west as Texas. Deviney says he can see the concept working across the map, but doesn’t necessarily envision that path in the near future.