Voice of the Restaurant Industry
I often ask myself, why are you obsessed with Chick-Fil-A? Maybe it’s their waffle fries, or tasty breakfast options? Maybe the incredible customer service is to blame. Maybe it’s that the nearest location to me is hours away, and we all know absence makes the heart grow fonder. In the end I tend to blame it on the Polynesian sauce.
When I visit my Mom in St. Petersburg, Fl (Where I lived for 8 years) it presents an opportunity to visit some of my favorite eateries that I can’t get in California. (Yes, California doesn’t have everything, as much as we like to make it seem that it does.) And Chick-Fil-A is always on the top of that list.
Working in the restaurant industry since my first job at 16 and working with restaurants in social media for the last few years, I tend to dissect restaurants and their components. Why are the successful? What do they have that others don’t? What makes them excel in this competitive industry?
Truett Cathy, creator of the first boneless chicken breast sandwich in 1946, went on to pioneer the establishment of restaurants in shopping malls with the opening of the first Chick-fil-A Restaurant at an Atlanta mall in 1967. Since then, Chick-fil-A has steadily grown to become the second largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the United States, with over 1,500 locations in 39 states. Here are a few reasons why Chick-Fil-A is a model for not only quick-service chains, but for restaurants in general.
Innovation - “We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich,” is their motto. Beginning with the chicken sandwich and continuing up to the recent launch of their new dual functioning ketchup packet (you can dip or squeeze), they are constantly thinking, growing and asking how can we improve?
Customer Service - Let’s be honest, there aren’t too many establishments that go the extra step to make their patrons feel welcome and give them an exceptional experience.(See Bill Campion's recent blog on Customer Centric Companies) But Chick-Fil-A does. Every interaction is met with a “My pleasure” and a smile. They are thorough, friendly and cater to their guests. They will clear your trays, offer you mints and refills; extra steps that most quick service concepts don’t even think of. They embody all that is customer service.
Consistency & Quality Product: They use fresh and tasty ingredients and offer healthier substitutions than most quick-service chains. If your order is not right, or not to your liking, they will make it again or offer you something else. They know that people can spend their money at a multitude of other places; they go the extra mile to ensure that you will be back.
Utilizing Social Media & Marketing – The Company has had wild success with their marketing efforts, long before social media landed on the scene. Their "Eat Mor Chikin" campaign, first introduced in 1995, depicts 3-D cows writing billboards encouraging people to “Eat Mor Chikin.” (Photo is one of their first campaigns in the late 80's) It’s had so much success they have integrated it into much more than billboards. In 2007, the Chick-Fil-A cows were recognized as one of America's most popular advertising icons in a public vote sponsored by Advertising Week. They are a prime example of a company who has embraced social media and integrated their traditional marketing efforts into their social media marketing strategies. With over 3.8 million fans on Facebook, they keep their fans coming back with games, trivia, promotions and engagement.
According to their Web site, Chick-fil-A sold more than 58 million Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwiches from June to December 2010, that is 110 a minute or almost 2 sandwiches per second. And in 2010, annual sales were over $3.5 billion, continuing their 40-year streak of positive sales growth. It seems to me that other restaurants need to take notes.
So tell me: what’s your favorite brand? Why do you continue to spend your money with them?