Industry News | April 22, 2013

At Chick-fil-A, Old Salads Just Don't Cut It

Chick-fil-A isn’t one to back down from a challenge—even one that’s self-imposed. That’s why, despite the fact that customers weren’t complaining about current salad offerings, the chicken chain decided to scrap its salad lineup in favor of three brand new options.

“Salads are a product where people expect change,” says David Farmer, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of strategy development. “They expect new flavors and interesting combinations, so we just felt like we were at a place where it was time to update all of our salads.

“And instead of making small changes,” he adds, “we just felt like it was appropriate to really replace the entire category.”

Beginning April 29, customers across the nation will be saying goodbye to options like the Chargrilled & Fruit Salad, the Chick-n Strips Salad, and the Southwest Chargrilled Salad.

In exchange, they’ll be saying hello to the Cobb Salad (featuring sliced Chick-fil-A Nuggets, baby greens and Romaine lettuce, shredded red cabbage and carrots, roasted corn kernels, shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, crumbled bacon, diced eggs, and grape tomatoes, with the option of crispy red bell peppers); the Asian Salad (including sliced nuggets, Romaine and baby greens, shredded red and green cabbage, carrots, Mandarin orange slices, and the option of Honey Thai Almonds and Chinese Garlic & Ginger Wontons); and the Market Salad (featuring grilled chicken breast, baby greens and Romaine lettuce, shredded red cabbage and carrots, crumbled blue cheese, red and green apples, strawberries, and blueberries).

“It’s not your father’s or your grandfather’s salad anymore,” Farmer says. “Or maybe I should say mother’s or grandmother’s.”

In addition, a new side salad—which includes Romaine lettuce, shredded red cabbage and carrots, Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, and grape tomatoes, with the option of red bell peppers—serves as an alternative to the brand’s Waffle Fries in any combo meal.

The salads start at $6.79, offer at least two servings of fruit and vegetables, and range from 180–430 calories, without dressing.

Speaking of dressings, Chick-fil-A is introducing a trio of new—and more adventurous—options to pair with the enhanced salad lineup. These include Avocado Lime Ranch, Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette, and Honey Sesame.

Farmer says the upgraded salad options will help the brand connect with its choosy customers who are in a hurry.

“The choosy, we think, is addressed by some of the unique flavor profiles, the ingredients, the dressings we’re offering,” he says. “And then the hurry is our ability to really give them the salad that you would typically expect to get at a much more expensive meal … in 60 seconds.”

The new lineup also reiterates the brand’s premium placement in the fast-food category, says Mark Baldwin, senior consultant with Chick-fil-A’s public relations department.

“We feel like we’re on the upper end of the fast-food category, so our customers are looking for that quality factor,” he says. “At our restaurants, we don’t have the dollar menu, we don’t play the value games. Our customers hold us accountable and we love that. They expect premium ingredients and fresh product that they can’t get anywhere else.”

Chick-fil-A originally planned to unveil the salads next spring, but after successful test runs in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and Orlando, Florida, markets last fall, Farmer says the brand was ready to accelerate the rollout.

He adds that spring is the perfect time of the year to introduce a salad lineup. “The availability of good produce drives that a lot, as well as the fact that customers start to think about eating healthy,” he says. “I know a lot of folks are thinking bathing-suit season, as well, so they’re mindful of what they’re eating.”

To that end, the brand is also re-engineering its Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap, featuring grilled and sliced chicken breast, green leaf lettuce, shredded cabbage and carrots, and a blend of shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses rolled in a flax-bread wrap, all for 330 calories.

The healthful approach doesn’t end with these new and improved items; the brand is also rolling out calorie counts on menuboards nationwide.

“We genuinely do care about our customers’ well being,” Farmer says. “We want to make sure we’re not only providing healthy options, but we’re also giving them information that will enable them to make the right choices.”

Farmer says the new menuboards, which also feature new food photography and type fonts set on a white background, are simply an extension of moves Chick-fil-A has already taken in providing nutritional content (include in-store nutrition information and an online nutrition calculator). He also says the brand has been hoping to add calorie counts to the menu for quite some time.

“We’ve held up for a while, waiting to see what the requirements are going to be, because it’s not inexpensive to do this,” Farmer says. “But the guidelines have been slow to come out, and we finally said, ‘We can’t wait. We need to do this.’”

He adds that this is just another step in creating a greater sense of brand transparency. An additional step: in-store tours that allow guests to see what goes on behind the counter at their local Chick-fil-A.

Though some stores have been operating these 5–7-minute tours for up to two years, Farmer says the goal is to get every store participating.

“We found out that even the people who eat with us three or four times a week don’t know simple things like how much hand preparation goes into their food, such as hand-breading our chicken every single day to make the chicken sandwich or squeezing lemons to make the lemonade,” Baldwin says. “With all these different food-related stories, we thought, ‘You know what? Let’s show you the recipes.’”

But new products, menuboards, and tours aren’t all the brand is revealing this month. It’s also testing a new production process for the new salads in which restaurants will make fewer salads less often, rather than creating a bulk supply in the morning.

Farmer says this helps the brand alleviate waste, ensure product freshness, and smooth operations.

“We’ve sort of retooled the kitchen so that’s we’re making very small batches of salads all throughout the day. It’s not a one-and-done exercise,” he says. “But the kitchen is set up so that it’s not difficult to go back and make three more salads.”

By Mary Avant

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by QSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.


I hate David Farmer, I was a loyal customer to chickfila, but now that they've discontinued the chicken cesar wrap AND cesar dressing, I will no longer be dining there! Yes its good that fast food resturaunts are concerned about how healthy their food is now, but its starting to get on my nerves. Yes, I do eat healthy, but sometimes I just want to treat myself with my favorite food (the cesar wrap). Thanks to David I can no longer do that, so now I'm typing this angry comment with a nagging hunger....a hunger that can no longer be filled!

CFA made this same mistake a few years ago, adding unnecessary ingredients to their perfectly delectable salad. Corn did not belong in a salad then and blue cheese and fruit does not today. They returned to a garden salad available with grilled chicken then and I predict they do the same. No one wants to pay over $7 for such ridiculous ingredients.

Personally, I am going to miss the old salads. I enjoyed them. Just tried one of the new salads. It cost too much and wasn't an improvement. I'd rather have the old salads back.

Liked the chik in Strips salad - 2-3 times a week and many times while on the road - they had my business - now the new salads are no improvement - I prefer not to have bleu cheese and fruit - especially do not like corn and if i want apples i will buy them in the fruit/produce aisle - been loyal customer for years but that has now changed - suggest chik fil A do better job of market research- this choosy customer will now go elsewhere - nothing on menu close to the original - hope they dont decide to change their original chicken sandwich?

Please bring back the old salads. I dont want fruit in my salad nor bacon and cheese.

Well, Mark Baldwin and David Farmer never did a survey that I participated in. I've been eating strip salads (about 8 years) from the first day I ever walked into a Chic-Fil-A. It's just about the only thing I'll ever order . . They don't have it now . . so, I guess I'll have to look elsewhere . . . . to 'CHANGE' something . . when your BUYING PUBLIC was NOT complaining . . just for the sake of 'trying to be hip' . . . Mr. VP of Strategy Development and Mr. Senior Consultant of the Public Relations Department have FLUBBED up for this customer . . . You want to know HOW it should have been done . . IF they were to do it? TEST THE WATERS . . . Add a new salad or two . . advertise the heck out of it . . . discount it . . . throw it with something else appealing . . and then SEE how the new stuff works . . if their customers change over and the 'old salads' are not as popular . then discontinue them. But this is a SLAP in their customer's faces and you'd think a VICE PRESIDENT of strategic marketing and a SENIOR MARKETING CONSULTANT of public relations would GET IT . . .I guess not . . . Mr. Cathy . . . I'm an UNHAPPY CUSTOMER . . .

They took my two favorite things off the menu...Cesar wrap and the southwest salad! Crushed!

David Farmer, you really got it wrong! Go ahead and fire whatever "consultant" you used on the wraps and salads. Good thing you aren't making them in bulk, because you'd be throwing a lot of salad away at the end of the day. You're combination of ingredients is bizarre at best. A Cobb salad does not feature fried chicken, corn or monterey jack-cheddar cheese. It has grilled chicken and blue cheese crumbles. I have ordered the occasional salad since you had the shift, and had to wait while a salad without cheese is constructed for me. Same goes for the wrap. I REALLY disliked whatever cheese is in the new wrap. Bring back the oh so DIVINE Chicken Caesar cool wrap with Caesar dressing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The new chicken salads at Chick fila are horrible. I can't believe they changed the chicken strip salad. Plus they cut up chicken in tiny pieces. They cheating me out my strips. Looks like only 2 strips cut in the salad. Please bring back old salads. Cobb salad NOT GOOD!!!

I LOVED the new salads. Yes I miss the old salads, but the Cobb is terrific! Nice going!

Love the garden salad with the zesty Apple cider Vinaigrette

I thought for sure the southwest salad would be back by now. I ate 2 of them each day. 14 salads a week as i was dieting and I LOVED this salad. They lost a customer when they removed the salads :(

I have boycotted Chik-fil-A....the took the southwest salad off the menu....BAD MOVE!

It's been a year and I still miss the old salads. I used to get a side salad or base salad (bigger side salad) there about twice a week. I gave the new side salad a try and was disappointed, but I gave it a few more tries to be fair.l and it just doesn't compare to the old one. I haven't been to Chick Fil A in at least six months now because I don't like anything there anymore. The new side salad is pretty generic, like the ones you can get anywhere, while the old one as miles and miles better.

I still miss the old side salads. They were brilliant! At least they brought the southwest salad back. Now if only they would bring back the old side salads that had broccoli and sunflower seeds, and none of those putrid burnt red pepper strips (tried them once, never again).

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