Imagine this scenario: You’re a restaurant manager in a struggling economy. Your restaurant is located in one of the most crowded street corners in the city. You have to share a small parking lot with several other businesses. Your restaurant chain typically derives 30 percent of its business from drive-thru; your location averages 60 percent. Despite all this, you’re steadily growing your business, often by double-digits each month. How is this possible?
Enter Chick-fil-A veteran Tammy Guadagno. If you’ve been to the Bristol & MacArthur Chick-fil-A, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of owner/operator Tammy. Whether she’s checking on her customers out front or holding down the fort back in the kitchen, Tammy is the heart and soul of this ever-growing eatery. With the support of her marketing directors (Bonnie Lewis in particular), Tammy is exploring different ways Chick-fil-A can expand. However, there is a particular growth area close to her heart: family.
Thanks to a Facebook page promotion the Santa Ana location ran recently, I had the opportunity to hang out with Tammy and get an inside look at how her Chick-fil-A operates. (Full Disclaimer: As a part of the promotion, I did receive a free meal and milkshake, but I was already a big Chick-fil-A fan prior to this.) During our session, I got to ask about how Chick-fil-A Santa Ana’s Facebook and Twitter efforts play a part in growing the business. The theme I kept hearing was “family.”
Tammy’s first job was thanks to her mom when she was an adolescent. But it was her brother who taught her all about the Chick-fil-A business. And when the time came, Tammy married an Italian. “Family” is not a foreign concept to her. Having moved out to the West Coast from Alabama, Tammy has the extra pressure of catering to a health-conscious California crowd. Ever the saleswoman, Tammy succeeded in converting her own husband into a Chick-fil-A fan after his protests about how the chicken couldn’t possibly be healthy if it wasn’t grilled.
“We actually pressure cook our chicken,” Tammy pointed out as we toured the nearly spotless kitchen. “We don’t flash fry it.” Add to the fact that Chick-fil-A’s signature chicken is cooked in peanut oil, and you’ve got a reasonably healthy chicken choice. In fact, Chick-fil-A is the largest commercial consumer of peanut oil in the country. So much so that Corporate recently mandated a switch to cooking waffle fries in canola oil to ensure the existence of a steady peanut oil supply in the future.
Even though the economy has been relatively flat for the past few years, Tammy and her team have focused on making their location feel more “family” than “fast food.” Even though the location’s “business is split about 60 percent drive-thru and 40 percent dine-in,” there is almost always a line out the door during peak lunch and dinner hours. Through a combination of savvy social media usage, catering requests, and family-oriented promotions, the Bristol & MacArthur Chick-fil-A has thrived. They also participate in the company’s WinShape Foundation as often as they can.
“I know we’ve been very blessed in the past few years, so we like to give back to people in need wherever we can,” said Tammy. For example, her story about how a local autistic boy wanted a Chick-fil-A T-shirt for his birthday. Her location was low on stock, so Tammy arranged for a shirt to be shipped overnight from corporate headquarters in Atlanta. She delivered the shirt at the boy’s birthday party and brought the location’s cow “mascot” along as an additional surprise.
Tammy made sure to mention that a large part of her location’s growth comes from the support and can-do attitude of her marketing team. “They provide tools and guidelines on what we can and can’t say or do, but they allow stores to be creative,” Tammy explained. Santa Ana’s Chick-fil-A consistently utilizes Facebook and Twitter, with activities ranging from holding fan photo contests to reponding to customer inquiries.
“The real reason we use [Facebook and Twitter] is to build relationships with our fans,” Tammy smiled. Over the past few months, Facebook and Twitter have been especially helpful at sharing selective daily discounts and driving sales. Tammy hinted that she is always open to ideas from Chick-fil-A fans on what kinds of promotions to run. If you have any ideas of deals you’d like to see, she suggested leaving a comment on their Facebook page.