Chester’s Chicken has a bold new look that befits the company’s fresh, never-frozen focus on fried chicken.
Chester’s Chicken was founded in 1952 when WO Giles began frying donuts, and later chicken, with their proprietary 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. Each Chester chicken is housed within another concept, usually a c-store, travel stop, or supermarket. QSRweb contacted William Culpepper, Vice President of Marketing, to learn more about the company’s redesign and what sets it apart from the competition.
Q:What is the concept of Chester’s Chicken?
TO: Chester’s Chicken is a leading quick-service restaurant concept, serving fresh, never-frozen chicken in c-stores and supermarkets throughout the US We have developed an almost cult following among loyal customers who love our double-breaded recipe and they enjoy eating delicious food in surprising places.
Q:What sets Chester’s Chicken apart from the competition?
TO: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 revamped brand that will help drive store-level traffic and profits. We are also intensely focused on providing an exceptional dining experience to our guests, who love that we provide hot, fresh food that tastes like home cooking while on the road.
Q:You have entered the chicken sandwich war. How is Chester’s Chicken different from other chicken sandwiches?
TO: At Chester’s, we were meticulous in selecting all the ingredients for our chicken sandwich. Our breast fillet is specially marinated and breaded by hand using our unique double breading process for extra crispiness. Our brioche bun is light and airy to allow the brisket fillet to be the star of the show. And a little bit 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 Chopped Chicken Sandwich in Summer 2020 and a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich in Summer 2021.
Q:Recently, it redesigned the concept at the store level. What’s new in the design?
TO:We wanted to create a much bolder and more modern expression, giving our operators a store design that is bright and clean and stands out in a c-store. We also wanted to show consumers our main point of differentiation: that we bread and fry fresh chicken in our stores every day. We now give more emphasis to the frying theater and rely on the fact that our fryers are often in view, right behind the service counter.
Q:To what does Chester’s Chicken owe its success?
TO: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 travelers, 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?
TO:Chester’s runs three in-store promotions per year. Promotions range from inexpensive meals, limited-time offers, and key product features. For promotions, each store receives an in-store marketing kit, complete with window stickers, a street talking sign, a wall poster, countertop signs 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 social media presence.
Q: How is Chester’s Chicken doing in such a tight job market? Any advice for hiring good employees?
TO:The job market is challenging for all catering concepts these days. We have worked with our operators to adjust cook order procedures to focus on the most profitable items. Another change Chester’s has made is to put a greater emphasis on take out items, powered by our line of fried chicken sandwiches. This allows operators to use labor to make sandwiches for a set amount of time and then place the sandwiches in a take-out warmer, where no labor is required. Chester’s Chicken Sandwich line is perfect for any takeout program.
Q: How do you maintain continuity across the brand as it grows?
TO:We work very hard to introduce a brand that customers love and that our franchisees are proud to display. As part of our brand update, we have offered incentives to our franchisees to invest in the new signage and we provide a very realistic timeline for stores to make the updates. Maintaining a brand requires tireless effort, but we are committed to the cause and will continue to evolve.
Q:In what areas is Chester’s Chicken looking for a franchise?
TO:Chester’s wants to continue developing new franchises in the c-store and supermarket space. We have a nationwide presence with team members located throughout the country and we are eager to find partners who want to grow with us. We offer a differentiated turnkey concept that works well in smaller spaces. Growth areas include colleges, universities, airports, etc.
Q:What do you look for in a franchisee?
TO:We are looking for an ideal franchisee who is committed to our program:
- Serving quality products, staffing, training, execution.
- Previous experience in food service.
- High traffic locations.
- Multiple unit operators.