#7 Chicken Salad Chick
Like most restaurant executives, Chicken Salad Chick CEO Scott Deviney pondered the worst when COVID-19 shutdowns first hit in March 2020. “We all stared into the abyss a little bit. It was unheard of,” he said. But its 2019 purchase by Brentwood Associates, a private equity firm with many restaurant chains under its umbrella, proved helpful. “We were very lucky when Brentwood Associates purchased us, because they said don’t change what you’re doing. For the most part that worked out. The pandemic hits, it makes everyone change their approach,” Deviney said. “What Brentwood did, they started doing conference calls with all the CEOs, and supported us collectively and individually on the best path to move forward during COVID.” Other companies under the Brentwood tent were in California and the Northeast, where shutdowns were longer and stricter compared to Chicken Salad Chick’s home base. “We were fortunate in the Southeast, things were more open,” and “hearing the voice of optimism from us” in turn gave hope to CEOs in other locales. He also credited franchise owners and company teams who “worked tirelessly to make sure our brand was well-positioned to come out of COVID better than we went into it.” Their ideas included community meal drops, pop-up “drive-thrus” in parking lots, meals for first responders and the like. Chicken Salad Chick finished 2020 with 176 restaurants, opening a total of 37 and closing just a couple. Of those 37, 26 new stores opened after June 1, 2020. “We’ll finish this year opening 35; we thought we’d get 40 open,” but because of supply chain and other issues the rest will spill over into early 2022. Most notable, it will be the highest AUV in the company’s history at the end of 2021, $1.3 million, he said. “Think about that, six days a week, just lunch and dinner.” Average unit volumes were just under $1.1 million in 2020.
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