Chester's Chicken has a bold new look that corresponds with the company's fresh, never frozen focus on fried chicken.
Chester's Chicken was founded in 1952 when W.O. Giles started frying donuts — and later chicken — with his patented fryers in Montgomery, Alabama.
Since then, the company has focused almost exclusively on chicken, with its signature double-breaded recipe at the core of the Birmingham, Alabama-based brand. Now in its third generation of family ownership, the company has approximately 1,200 franchised units. Every Chester's Chicken is housed within another concept, usually a c-store, travel stop or supermarket. QSRweb reached out to William Culpepper, VP of marketing, to learn more about company's redesign and what sets the company apart from its competition.
Q:What's Chester's Chicken's concept?
A: Chester's Chicken is a leading quick-serve restaurant concept, serving fresh, never frozen chicken in c-stores and supermarkets throughout the U.S. We have developed an almost cult-like following among loyal customers who love our double-breaded recipe and enjoy eating delicious food in surprising places.
Q:What sets Chester's Chicken apart from the competition?
A:As a franchise, Chester's is unique in that our concept is royalty-free, and the cost of entry is relatively low. We are committed to providing our franchisees with great products, best-in-class operational support, and a newly refreshed brand that will help drive traffic and store-level profits. We are also intently focused in delivering an exceptional food experience for our guests, who love that we provide for a fresh, hot meal that tastes like home cooking while they are on the road.
Q:You've entered the chicken sandwich wars. How is Chester's Chicken different from other chicken sandwiches?
A: At Chester's, we were meticulous in selecting every ingredient in our chicken sandwich. Our breast filet is specially marinated and hand-breaded using our signature double-breading process for extra crispiness. Our brioche bun is light and airy to allow the breast fillet to be the star of the show. And a little topping of our signature honey butter gives the sandwich just a hint of sweetness. We've also introduced two LTOs around the chicken sandwich, offering a Honey Stung Chicken Sandwich in the summer of 2020 and a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich in the summer of 2021.
Q:You recently redesigned the concept at the store level. What's new in the design?
A:We wanted to create a much bolder and modern expression, giving our operators a store design that is bright and clean and will stand out in a c-store. We also wanted to show consumers our major point of differentiation — that we hand-bread and fry fresh chicken in our stores every day. We now bring more emphasis to the theater of frying and lean into the fact that our fryers are often in plain sight, right behind the service counter.
Q:To what does Chester's Chicken owe its success?
A:It all starts with our delicious fried chicken. Chester's has stood the test of time because we have great tasting products, and we have an incredibly loyal following with road trippers, truck drivers, and fried chicken lovers. But we never want to rest on our laurels — we will continue to grow the brand and innovate in ways that complement our original fried chicken recipe.
Q:What kind of marketing does Chester's Chicken do?
A:Chester's executes three in-store promotions per year. The promotions vary between value meals, limited time offers, and core product features. For the promotions, each store receives an in-store marketing kit, featuring window clings, a street talker sign, a wall poster, counter top posters, and more. Chester's also offers digital marketing assets, including gas pump videos and in-store promotional loops. We also have a full suite of permanent signage for our operators, turnkey digital menu board systems, local store marketing packages, and an active presence on social media.
Q: How is Chester's Chicken faring in such a tight labor market? Any tips for hiring great employees?
A:The labor market is a challenge for all restaurant concepts these days. We have worked with our operators to adjust cook order procedures to focus on the most profitable items. Another shift Chester's has made is to place greater emphasis on grab 'n go products, buoyed by our lineup of fried chicken sandwiches. This enables operators to utilize labor to make sandwiches during a given time, and then place the sandwiches in a grab 'n go warmer, where no labor is required. Chester's Chicken Sandwich lineup is perfect for any grab 'n go program.
Q: How are you maintaining continuity across the brand as you grow?
A:We work extremely hard to put forth a brand that customers love and that our franchisees are proud to display. As part of our brand refresh, we have offered incentives to our franchisees to invest in the new signage, and we provided a very realistic timeline for stores to make the updates. Maintaining a brand requires relentless effort, but we are committed to the cause and will continue to evolve.
Q:Into what areas is Chester's Chicken looking to franchise?
A:Chester's wants to continue to develop new franchisees in the c-store and supermarket space. We have a nationwide footprint with team members located throughout the country, and we are eager to find partners who want to grow with us. We deliver a differentiated, turnkey concept that works well in smaller footprints. Areas of growth include colleges, universities, airports, etc.
Q:What do you look for in a franchisee?
A:We are looking for an ideal franchisee who is committed to our program:
- Serving quality products, staffing, training, execution.
- Prior food service experience.
- High traffic locations.
- Multi-unit operators.