Southern Mom Grows Chicken Salad Chick to 50 Restaurants in Just Three Years of Franchising

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Chicken Salad Chick, the nation's only southern inspired, fast casual chicken salad restaurant concept with 50 restaurants across the Southeast celebrated tremendous growth in 2015. The company, which began in a single mother's kitchen in Auburn, Ala., today announced it opened 17 restaurants in 2015 and signed 20 new franchise agreements, along with eight new area development agreements, as the brand continues its aggressive expansion. The company has also reported record-high systemwide sales with an increase of 63 percent, which has been driven by exciting limited time offers, such as the Dill-icious Diva and Key Lime Pie, as well as new store openings. This year, Chicken Salad Chick plans to open at least 30 restaurants.

"I'm continuously in awe of our growth, which can be attributed to our family-like culture, passionate employees, loyal guests and franchisees, who are true partners," said Stacy Brown, Chicken Salad Chick founder. "The majority of our new growth comes from existing franchisees, which says a lot about our brand and our leaders."

In addition to the growth of franchisees and restaurants in 2015, Chicken Salad Chick also brought on a private equity investment partner, Eagle Merchant Partners, to help further grow the brand. Furthermore, Chicken Salad Chick introduced Russ Umphenour, an industry veteran with more than 40 years of restaurant experience, as Chairman for the brand.

"By adding EMP and Russ to our team, we are further strengthening the Chicken Salad Chick brand," added Brown. "I'm so proud that this company has taken on a life of its own after three years of franchising and grown into a regional brand after starting from a home kitchen in Auburn!"

The Chicken Salad Chick brand was born in August 2007, when after 10 years of marriage, Brown found herself on her own after a divorce. The last thing she wanted was her three children's daily routine to change more than it had to, which meant she needed to make money on her own. Brown had always loved chicken salad and decided she could sell the southern favorite to local friends and neighbors to help make ends meet. After experimenting with a dozen recipe variations, Brown found recipe gold in a traditional chicken salad, which she suitably named Classic Carol. With a basket on her arm, a nod to the company's current logo, and four different chicken salad flavors in hand, Brown embarked on her door-to-door delivery service.

Within two months, Brown's chicken salad obsession had turned into a thriving entrepreneurial business and people took note, including Auburn government officials. When Stacy discovered that the local county health department would not allow her to continue making and selling her delicious recipes out of her home kitchen, she decided to launch her first restaurant with the business expertise of her future husband and fellow founder, Kevin Brown. On January 7, 2008, with four staff members and 40 pounds of chicken salad in 12 flavors, Chicken Salad Chick opened its doors. Within two hours, the restaurant had completely sold out.

Four years and three Chicken Salad Chick restaurants later, the Brown's decided to franchise the unique concept and chose Becky Roland as the first franchisee. Roland and her husband, Richard Meadows, are still franchisees today and own five restaurants.

Last year, Chicken Salad Chick entered several new markets, such as Charlotte, N.C.; Summerville, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Greensboro, N.C.; Orlando, Fla.; Tampa, Fla.; Ormond Beach, Fla.; Roswell, Ga.; Daphne, Ala.; and Asheville, N.C. In 2016, the chicken salad-focused brand is aiming to open at least 30 restaurants in Southern U.S. markets, including Florida, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and Alabama. By 2020, Chicken Salad Chick anticipates to have at least 200 restaurants open.