What happens when a small town grabs this big name

Chick-fil-A may work in mysterious ways when it comes to site selection, but the impact it has on the communities it catches is clear.

“Tickled,” is how Anna’s director of economic development Joey Grisham described the reaction of locals when they discovered an outlet for the Atlanta-based chain was coming to their town. City workers were also tickled, Grisham said.

That’s because Chick-fil-A puts a small town on the map.

Courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A is known for its long drive-thru lines, especially during peak meal times.

The Positive Impact of Chains Like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods on Nearby Home Values ​​and Real Estate Investment Returns has been well documented. But for small towns, it’s Chick-fil-A that brings diners, development, and dollars.

“For small towns, like Anna, it’s a big deal,” Grisham said. “It’s a norm that a lot of small towns now go like, ‘Hey, we’ve arrived.'”

The intangible benefit of raising the profile of a small town within the competitive Dallas-Fort Worth retail market cannot be underestimated. And bringing in a Chick-fil-A also has dollar-and-cent implications for city coffers. In the months since the Anna site opened in April 2020, reports from the State Comptroller’s Office show that sales tax revenue increased 30% to 40% year over year. the other.

All of this can’t be linked to Chick-fil-A — Whataburger and Starbucks opened around the same time — though it’s certainly a big contributor, Grisham said.

“It really gave Anna a huge boost just from an economic point of view,” he said.

Anna is not alone in this opinion. Lexington, North Carolina, City Manager Alan Carson told the Lexington Dispatch that scoring a Chick-fil-A in his city of under 20,000 was “a stamp of approval” and a signal for other companies to move in. This was echoed last month by Glen Carbon, Illinois, Mayor Bob Marcus, who touted Riverbender.com the “great benefit to the community” of a franchise in his village of just over 12,000 people. Allen Barnes, Stephensville, Texas city manager, told Beneath the Surface News that the chain’s arrival heralds The beginning of a new era “.

Adding a Chick-fil-A to a small town’s burgeoning restaurant lineup is a huge win, but it’s also beyond the control of any one staff member. The company targets emerging markets and then opens stores in those areas to potential franchisees or, in Chick-fil-A terms, “operators.” Texas is identified as one of Chick-fil-A’s fastest growing markets over the next 12 to 24 months, according to its website.

“Chick-fil-A is constantly evaluating potential new sites for expansion, including cities in North Texas,” the company said. bisnow in an email. “These communities represent a tremendous opportunity for us to serve our customers great food with exceptional care.”

Before the first Prosper location opened in August 2018, Chick-fil-A was among Starbucks and a grocery store among the top three items on residents’ wish list, City Manager Harlan Jefferson said. Resident satisfaction is key to the success of any growing community, Jefferson said, which means the city had a vested interest in meeting those desires.

“Until we have [Chick-fil-A], there was always something missing,” he said. “Our residents were going to be unhappy to some extent.”

Prosper now has two Chick-fil-A locations, and while the city wasn’t involved in recruiting the company, Jefferson said it stepped in to manage its high volume of traffic.

“They were open six to 12 months, and we realized we hadn’t planned well enough because [cars] were starting to recede – it became so popular,” he said.

The town of Anna reaped the benefits of Chick-fil-A although it was not involved in its creation. The chain not only attracts foreigners – some of whom may stay an hour or two longer and spend the money elsewhere – but also legitimizes the market for other businesses considering setting up shop.

“It kind of stimulates other concepts,” Grisham said. “If Chick-fil-A is doing well, another retailer might say, ‘OK, it makes sense for us to go ahead and ride Anna’ [on a list of potential locations].”

Reserved area

Mom is the word when it comes to Chick-fil-A’s real estate strategy. The company declined to speak on the matter for this story. But according to Andy Anderson, director of the Addison-based Restaurant Properties Group, the company is using local brokers to secretly scout for new locations under the generic guise of a large chicken franchise looking for space.

“They won’t tell you it’s Chick-fil-A right off the bat so they don’t get inundated with all the sites in the world — they want to choose,” Anderson said.

The competition among brokers to land the deal is fiercely competitive, Anderson said.

“Over the years, I’ve made several offers to Chick-fil-A and never got a response,” he said. “Anyone that’s doing development or has land they’re trying to develop or separating from the sides of the pad – everyone wants a Chick-fil-A or a Starbucks. These are considered home runs.

Demographic models that include population growth projections and traffic patterns help determine upcoming locations, Anderson said, but successful chains like Chick-fil-A aren’t afraid to try their luck in either. a small town.

“Chick-fil-A is probably on par with Starbucks when it comes to picking locations that are sometimes a little bit more remote than other restaurateurs are willing to risk,” he said. “They can afford to take the risk of getting into those tertiary markets and waiting for the volume to be in place, because it won’t always be in place from the start.”

This was not the case for Prosper. Its stores were immediately successful, drawing wraparound lines of traffic for weeks, Jefferson said.

“I think [residents] saw a sense of accomplishment in it,” he said. “You can tell by the overwhelming success they’ve had.”

The same was true in Anna, where the lines extended to the Walmart entrance, about a quarter of a mile away. Nearly two years later, Grisham said little has changed.

“You go out at any time for lunch, breakfast, or even dinner, and you’ll have a really good queue,” he said.

Chick-fil-A has been incredibly successful in convincing people to “eat mor chikin”. According to a 2019 ranking by QSR Magazine, the channel had the third highest revenue of any fast food restaurant in the country, behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks. The private company’s sales have tripled since 2010, according to Technomic estimates, and even the pandemic has not slowed its growth. Chick-fil-A reported annual revenue of $4.3 billion in 2020, an increase of 13% out of the $3.6 billion reported the previous year.

Famous for closing on Sundays, the company has more than 2,600 restaurants in 47 states, Washington, DC and Canada, according to its website.

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