Industry News | January 23, 2017 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Chick-fil-A, Top Chains Expand to Small Colleges

Chick-fil-A opened a location on campus at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania. Metz Culinary Management

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Metz Culinary Management launched a new program to bring national quick-service chains to small college campuses by fostering partnerships that benefit the whole community.

“We’ve always had success in larger colleges and universities with the national brands,” says Rebecca Daley, district manager at Metz. “But there has always been the desire from both the students and the faculty and staff in the smaller institutions to get the same sort of attention [from these brands].”

The program started when Chick-fil-A opened a location on campus at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania, on November 10. Metz, which approached the brand, drew on its existing relationship with the chain for other projects. This is the first of several planned projects with other schools and brands.

To begin, Metz’s research process involves surveying the student body on campuses and researching the demographics of the school’s student body, gathering information about student food plans, and discovering the number of alternative food choices close to campus.

“If there is strong competition it doesn’t make sense [to build on campus], but if there is nothing in the area and on campus is the only option, it makes great sense to look at bringing a brand on campus,” Daley says.

Daley also notes that the demographics of the community outside the campus is important, too, as that is additional support for the brand, and the expansion can help the community and the school.

“You have to look at the opportunity for outside of the campus as well, allowing the public in to be able to support that brand as well, so we look at that to say what is to invite the community on campus to enjoy the brand, and it’s a win-win for everyone,” she says.

With the Chick-fil-A at Misericordia, for example, there is not another Chick-fil-A in the town or neighboring community, so the brand has ample opportunity for growth while consumers are excited about a new dining option in town, and the college attracts people to campus.

“It’s great for the college because they get people coming on campus, and the number one piece is that it’s awesome for recruiting for the colleges,” Daley says.

Schools such as Lebanon Valley College, Gannon University, and Niagara University, among others, are working with Metz. In addition to Chick-fil-A, Subway, and Einstein Brothers, Metz has relationships with Tim Hortons, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks, and continues to look for new brand partnerships.

Once Daley and her team conduct research, they approach brands they feel would be the right fit for consumer demand and the space, as well as a fit ethically and atmospherically for the campus.

“A lot of the time it’s based off of student feedback that we’ve gotten through surveys or food committee meetings and sometimes it’s during a sales process as well,” she says. “Then we really look at the structure of the school and decide what’s going to make the most sense.”

Though the program just launched, Metz plans to continue expanding it in the coming months as more brands look at smaller schools as growth opportunities.

“In the college environment you have to be constantly making changes and building excitement with students, so that’s our goal and to have a big laundry list of vendors to bring on campus to them with these brands is huge,” Daley says. “We will continue to build our partnership with as many brands as possible because it helps our clients with recruitment.”

By Peggy Carouthers

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