Chicken salad is a whole other experience when you eat it at Chicken Salad Chick. What started as a door-to-door project by co-founder & original “chick,” Stacy Brown, has become a more than 100-location brand in 12 states. Preparing 12 flavors of chicken salad made fresh daily, the brand has captured a loyal customer base.
Tom Carr, award-winning marketing, advertising, and media executive who serves as VP of marketing for Chicken Salad Chick, says the brands commitment to its purpose of spreading joy, enriching lives, and serving others has fueled its success. Below are highlights from our conversation.
What marketing strategies do you credit for your strong growth?
Our high-touch localized marketing using food samples has been key for us to drive frequency by staying aligned with the local culture. While we are continuing to grow across the U.S., right now we are in the south and this region loves chicken salad. Since our target customers are women, we want them to discover that our variety of 12 flavors made fresh daily will taste as good or better than what they can make at home. The tasting experience is essential so grass roots sampling is how we have done it. Social media is also important so customers can tell their story building word-of-mouth.
What is your approach to local marketing?
Chicken Salad Chick began with the co-founder and original chick, Stacy Brown, selling door-to-door and that has helped us define our strategy of focusing on each local market and getting to know everyone in the community. In her efforts, she was able to identify leaders and influencers and get her product to them as a way of introducing the food and brand. We have continued this grassroots marketing by bringing our food to schools. Teachers will bring their excitement through word-of-mouth to the PTA, junior league, and other community groups.
How important is community-relations in your marketing?
Very. Since we are 80/20 franchise and company-owned, our entire team meets with every franchisee before they come into the system and discuss how important community relations are to not just the Chicken Salad Chick marketing but to our brand mission. What is truly core for us is our purpose to spread joy, enrich lives and serve others. Whether they are new operators running only one or as many as a dozen locations, it is paramount to us they lead their marketing through this lens of purpose. We want every customer to feel like their local Chicken Salad Chick is “their” restaurant because of the culture of friendly hospitality which is demonstrated by every trained team member committed to our purpose.
Tell us about the CSC Foundation
The true purpose of our founders, Stacy and Kevin Brown, was to have a positive impact on people with a philanthropic avenue. After Kevin’s cancer diagnosis, the direction of the Chicken Salad Chick Foundation became clear. Sadly, he has passed away but we are proud of the sizable donations we have made toward research and local cancer centers. Our fundraisers have included our annual Teeing Off On Cancer Golf Classic and the Music & Miracles Superfest in 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium featuring headliners Kenny Chesney and Miranda Lambert raising $200,000 for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. In addition, the CSC Foundation is passionate about ending hunger in America. This cause is a natural fit for our foundation since feeding families in need closely aligns with who we are as an organization. Partnering with Chicken Salad Chick locations in our various markets, we give back to local food banks and food-related charities.
Tell us about your loyalty program and its impact on customer engagement.
We have a robust loyalty program through our app called Craving Credits. We believe if someone takes the time, effort and space on their phone to download our app, we want to give them value that is meaningful and relevant to them. Examples are having double-points days every month which are popular as we see a spike in sales on those days and a nice tail over the next 5 days. We also will use the app as a tool for guest feedback and will add loyalty points when customers take the time to respond.
Our restaurant is next door to another brand and parking in our town can be complicated. Does it make sense to have a shared valet partnership even though we consider ourselves competitors?
Makes all the sense in the world and here's why. Operating a Valet will take space and that space erodes revenue so why not combine the two into one. Plus, the Valet companies will bid more be competitively knowing they are serving two brands with a single drop off. Your customer will have already made their decision on who they are dining with that evening so it isn’t like you are vying for their attention as soon as they exit the vehicle. Think of the guest’s needs first and they will thank you for it.
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Editor’s note: This is the latest monthly column with Rom Krupp, the founder and CEO of Marketing Vitals, an analytics software helping restaurants of all shapes and sizes. You can read his column on Twin Peaks here, Abuelo's here, Kenny's Restaurant Group here, Firenza Pizza here, Sonny’s BBQ here, Boston's here, Del Frisco’s Grill here, City Barbecue here, Four Foods Group here, Melt Shop here, Sizzler here, Saxbys here, Stoner’s Pizza Joint here, CKE Restaurants here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.