During the Conversation Tour held just weeks ago for Church’s Chicken, the brand came together with franchisees in various regions of the country to recap achievements for the past year and set the tone on the next five years. Strong communications and teamwork have been essential to Church’s impressive upward trend since 2016. Now, the brand is looking to leverage the power of its franchise network to reach even higher benchmarks for 2021 through 2026.
“Every year has been better than the last for us – in sales and in average check – and that’s in spite of a global pandemic and while we have been rolling out various operational changes and improvements. That success is 100 percent rooted in the determination and hard work we have put into our franchisee-franchisor relationships,” says Church’s Chief Executive Officer, Joe Christina. “It’s time to apply that strength towards optimizing our operations, ensuring common vision in working towards measurable results, and remaining flexible in the face of an ever-changing restaurant landscape. That is our plan for becoming the Global Franchisor of Choice.”
The brand lived up to its Franchisor of Choice promise in multiple ways in 2020, continuing with positive year-over-year sales numbers for the fourth straight year. Church’s also reappeared on the national media landscape with a more innovative media utilization plan that considered all available platforms, and then optimized budgets to allow for national TV for the second year in a row. That same spirit of maximizing return on investment for franchisees was also a cornerstone element in the all-new Church’s Chicken Sandwich, which required a modest acquisition of new kitchen equipment in restaurants, but has quickly yielded sensational sales results that have more than recouped the cost of that equipment for almost all operators. All of these successes, combined with other operational efficiencies, meant that Church’s turned in yet another profitable year for its franchise system.
Christina explained that these results are even more meaningful when considered as part of a longer-term trend. “We got big lifts from our family meals and delivery during the pandemic. We also had a blockbuster success with our Chicken Sandwich. However, when we looked at the sales figures – we realized that these were shining stars in an already bright universe. By working closely with our franchisees, vendors, and restaurant teams to build momentum throughout the year we were able to outperform 2019, one of our best years in a decade,”
For 2021, Church’s is prepared to double down on those kinds of wins. “Take nothing for granted,” Christina told team members. “We enter 2021 with great momentum, but we’re not slowing down. We’re a different brand today than ever before, we are well on our way to next-level growth.”
Some of the specific goals include:
- Opening 100 new restaurants globally by year’s end.
- Rolling out new Point of Sale (POS) systems in Q1 2021 and beyond.
- Activating the new and differentiated brand position both domestically and internationally to accelerate growth and drive profitability.
- Enhancing the global guest experience with forward-thinking restaurant design, evolved menu offerings, and innovative packaging options.
- Maximizing off-premises services to further improve restaurant profitability.
- Expanding brand awareness and guest acquisition and increasing preference among existing consumers.
Brian Gies, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer, also addressed the brand’s future outlook for marketing. “Our two-year comps during national media weeks have produced a 8.1 percent increase in average same store sales,” he explained. “It proves the effectiveness of our evolved marketing approach, earning more market share even against brands that spend far more on media yearly. Going forward, we’re going to expand our marketing presence across the most relevant media channels with a broader reach, integrated analytics, and including as many as 25 weeks of total on-air broadcast time nationally and locally.”
In terms of guest experience, Senior Vice President and Global Chief People Officer, Karen Viera, outlined new team member development and training initiatives, including the brand’s new Our Texas Way brand experience handbook. The purpose of the new HR plan is to build lasting relationships with guests which are rooted in pride for the brand and all it stands for – big hearts, family, strong values, bold tastes, great value, and authentic hospitality. “The vision is to take the core of our branding and marketing messages and brings it to life across all HR functions and restaurant operations,” shared Viera. “We’re inviting franchisees, team members, restaurant staff, and even guests deeper into the Church’s experience and making them part of what comes next.”
Pete Servold, Executive Vice President, Franchise & Company Operations, discussed a number of operational enhancements coming in 2021. “We had 50% growth in delivery and we quadrupled Order Ahead/Pay Ahead in 2020,” he said. “The next few years we will be exploring all opportunities for leveraging those kinds of results.” Incorporation of contactless pickup, enhanced delivery options, increased speed of service across all consumer touchpoints, system-wide technology upgrades, advanced restaurant design, and streamlining of kitchen and drive-through environments were all part of the Operations hit list from now until 2026.
“Church’s is energized like never before to capitalize on new opportunities and become a powerhouse restaurant brand,” added Christina. “We’ve followed through – and are continuing to follow through – on being the Global Franchisor of Choice. We’re firing on all cylinders in terms of a unified franchisee network. We’ve reached and surpassed financial benchmarks. We can do this, because in all we do, we believe we can. That is what has always, and will always, set Church’s apart.”