As Chicken Salad Chick pushes its geographical boundary, the fast-growing chain continues to spread joy, enrich lives, and serve others across the nation as its No. 1 mission.
In 2022, The Southeast-based brand added new franchises in New Mexico and broke ground for its first Colorado location, which is scheduled for April. The chain also opened franchise development for Maryland, Delaware, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This exploration into new markets includes a team of new and existing franchise owners and company stores as well.
Chief marketing officer Tom Carr credits the fast casual's success to two things: variety and creativity.
“From [Chicken Salad Chick’s] origins, Stacy and Kevin Brown realized their genius was that people have different ways that they like chicken salad,” Carr says, referring to the company’s founders. “They recognized that different people have different flavor profiles […] while its origins are Southern, people eat chicken salad all over the country.”
The Browns started by looking in their kitchen for inspiration—barbecue sauce for lovers of savory and pineapple for those with a sweet tooth. Today, the Chicken Salad Chick menu boasts 12 distinct chicken salad flavors.
“As we started to grow past our original roots, we thought about how we had to change our menu to appeal to different palettes,” Carr explains. “We feel like it’s on us to ensure that we’re satisfying our guests by having variety and continuing to develop new and creative flavors.”
One example is the Jalapeño Holly flavor, crafted with the desire to appeal to a new Texan market. Another would be the newly released Southwest Señorita, a limited-time offer that can be paired with chicken poblano soup—a marriage of flavors strategically placed in the spring for Cinco de Mayo.
Equally important to Chicken Salad Chick’s success is its commitment to the company ethos. At over 225 restaurants and growing, culture fit is one of the key criteria in the brand’s franchising strategy.
While the brand’s core purpose is to serve, enrich and spread joy, Carr counts on franchisees to bring their unique touches into the mix.
“There is a lot of room for people to bring their personality, and we really hope that happens,” Carr says. “We encourage our restaurant operators to think about how ‘The Chick’ comes to life through them.”
Each restaurant location has its own social media page where operators can let their personality shine and better engage with their guests. Chicken Salad Chick’s official Instagram recently surpassed 70,000 followers and continues to grow.
Chicken Salad Chick plans to hit the gas pedal on new store openings in 2023, accelerating to an additional 35 restaurants. Carr expects the fast casual to work outward in concentric circles, allowing for an extension of brand awareness and support.
The concept opened 24 restaurants in 2022, including the first in Chicagoland. It also signed 24 franchise agreements calling for 38 stores in the next several years throughout places like Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. Chicken Salad Chick earned $306.8 million in systemwide sales in 2022, a 20 percent increase year-over-year, and its AUV grew to record heights. In terms of same-store sales, the brand has seen positive comps in the past eight quarters and 24 in the past 28.
“We’ve had a very strategic way of growth,” Carr says. “We topped over $300 million in sales last year, and we’re excited to push further into the Southwest.”
Another stop on Chicken Salad Chick's journey involves grassroots efforts in the community. The Chicken Salad Chick Foundation aims to give back to local food banks and food-related charities, as well as make sizable donations to organizations such as the American Cancer Society.
“It extends beyond the restaurant,” Carr says. “It’s when we have an opportunity to get involved with our community that people get to know us personally and we get to give back […] community involvement is a really big piece of what we try to do.”
The company partners with national nonprofit CURE Childhood Cancer through its Giving Card promotion each year. In 2022, over $500,000 was raised through this promotion. Since 2017, the foundation has contributed over $2 million to philanthropic ventures.
Carr believes staying true to the core Chicken Salad Chick experience across all avenues has helped the brand carve a unique position for itself in today’s fast-casual market.
“As we grow, we’re very focused on staying true to who we are,” Carr expresses. “We’re excited about these growth opportunities.”