ATLANTA -(BUSINESS WIRE)- Chick-fil-A, Inc. started construction on three stand-alone restaurants in Aurora, Orland Park and Wheaton, Ill., that will kick off the Atlanta-based chain's expansion into the Chicagoland area.
Having spent the past five years evaluating and researching the local marketplace, Chick-fil-A® has identified a healthy list of prospective restaurant sites to further its Chicago expansion over the next several years. In addition to the three locations set to open this year, Chick-fil-A anticipates opening up to six more restaurants throughout the Chicago area in 2011 – representing 10 percent of its overall annual restaurant growth.
Chick-fil-A takes conservative measures when it comes to restaurant growth, opening an average of 75 or more new restaurants annually. The conservative growth model has proven to work for the privately held company. The chain surpassed $3.2 billion in sales last year and achieved 42 consecutive years of annual sales growth, a streak that dates back to 1967 when the chain opened its first Atlanta restaurant.
Chick-fil-A has always been an innovator in the quick-dining restaurant business. In the early 1960s, the chain's 89-year-old founder, S. Truett Cathy, created his original boneless breast of chicken sandwich in his Dwarf House® diner, which he opened in 1946 in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, Ga. The success of the chicken sandwich led Cathy to open the first Chick-fil-A restaurant in 1967 in Atlanta's Greenbriar Mall – helping to pioneer in-mall dining. Cathy knew good food was not the only restaurant characteristic that guaranteed returning customers. He believes exceptional service and a positive influence on customers is the key to a successful business. This belief has been instilled chainwide through his iconic example in the food service industry.
Today, Cathy's eldest son, Dan, serves as president and chief operating officer of the chain. Under Dan T. Cathy's leadership, Chick-fil-A is moving forward on several bold business initiatives to further leverage the company's growth strategy. This year, Chick-fil-A will open 78 new restaurants nationwide and launch a new Chick-fil-A® Spicy Chicken Sandwich, while advancing its commitment to its customers and Operators through innovative customer service initiatives. With nearly 1,500 locations in 38 states and Washington, D.C., Chick-fil-A's expansion into the Chicago market is part of its long-term growth strategy of planting restaurants in major metropolitan markets where the chain does not have a presence. The Chicago expansion joins recent developments in other major markets such as Southern California, Kansas City, Mo., and Phoenix, Ariz.
"Our fans in Chicago, especially the transplanted Southerners, have been telling us for years they crave our hand-prepared chicken sandwiches, made-from-scratch biscuits, hand-chopped cole slaw and fresh-squeezed lemonade, and we listened," said Dan Cathy. "These loyalists have been loud and clear about their Chicago demands. They have started Web sites, Facebook and Twitter fan pages and posted YouTube videos as part of their campaigns pleading for us to open in Chicago."
Chicagoans unfamiliar with Chick-fil-A should expect quality food and service unmatched by any other quick-service restaurant. Though the restaurant may seem just another dot on the fast-food landscape, Chicagoans simply need to bite into the signature Chick-fil-A Original Chicken Sandwich made from premium all-white meat breast filets and experience the personalized service to understand why Chick-fil-A stands out in a category all its own.
Chick-fil-A has other distinguishing characteristics. Today, the company is still family owned and operated, with the third generation of the Cathy family entering the business. Chick-fil-A restaurants are also closed on Sunday, a 64-year practice that is a testament to Cathy's values and proof of his dedication to the quality of life of Chick-fil-A team members and franchisees. Part of the restaurant experience includes the company's unprecedented customer service standard. Guests in the restaurant are treated to assistance with carrying trays to tables, escorting guests to cars with umbrellas on rainy days, tableside beverage refills and smiles from restaurant team members who truly enjoy their jobs.
Customers will also see Chick-fil-A franchise Operators working with employees in their restaurants, not observing from an office. "One of the key traits we look for when selecting potential Operators is their willingness to work in the restaurant and to provide consistent leadership for their restaurant employees to follow," said Dan Cathy. "Customers are our best advocates, and franchise Operators take great responsibility for providing the right dining experience and contributing to the quality of life in their communities."
Chick-fil-A is also committed to the success and development of its restaurant team members. Chick-fil-A's founder has continued his 37-year commitment to education, awarding more than $26 million in scholarships to its restaurant team members since 1973. This year, the company will award $1.9 million in scholarships, marking a 35 percent increase, the highest year-over-year increase in company history.
In addition to wanting more locations, customers have been pleading for Chick-fil-A to offer a spicy chicken sandwich, which the chain will rollout on June 7. The spicy chicken sandwich is Chick-fil-A's most anticipated product rollout in 20 years and marks the first new sandwich the chain has added since introducing the Chick-fil-A® Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich in 1989.
Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, Inc. is the nation's second-largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain (based on sales), credited with inventing the boneless breast of chicken sandwich and first introducing the chicken nugget concept. The chain has grown to include nearly 1,500 restaurants in 38 states and Washington D.C. In 2009, Chick-fil-A produced record sales of $3.2 billion – an 8.6 percent overall increase and a 2.5 percent same-store sales gain that helped extend the chain's streak of consecutive sales gains to 42 years. The chain plans to add 78 locations this year, including 66 stand-alone restaurants, two mall/retail outlets, and 10 licensed outlets in non-traditional locations such as college campuses. This year, the chain also will spend millions in reinvestment dollars on existing business markets to remodel and redesign 86 stand-alone and shopping mall outlets across the country.