Signature Dish Steals Show at Chicken Salad Chick 150th Opening
Andrew Doan was first in line for the grand opening of Chicken Salad Chick in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, today.
The first guest in line for the grand opening today of Chicken Salad Chick in Baton Rouge, Andrew Doan, showed up at 5 p.m. the evening before, slept in his camp chair and waited out the drizzle until opening time 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Why? “I love it here,” said Doan, who has been to the Pensacola, Florida, location and lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “I’ve been waiting for this every day. It just tastes really good, it’s easy to eat,” he said about the chain’s signature—and only—dish, chicken salad made in 12 varieties, each named after one of the founder’s women of influence.
For his first-place status, Doan receives a quart of chicken salad every week for a year, while those holding numbers two through 100 receive a quart every month all year long.
The matriarch of the Nicolosi family, Maxine Nicolosi, also cited chicken salad as the reason her husband, Pete, and son Beau became franchisees. She tried Olivia’s Old South at a Chicken Salad Chick restaurant in Destin, Florida, about five years ago, “and I was sold. I read the story and said, Honey, this would be perfect for Beau. I knew right away.”
Beau and Pete Nicolosi are on their fourth store, with Beau and his wife, Abby, running the day-to-day. The Baton Rouge store is the company’s 150th opening.
Beau was in the insurance business with his father. “I started looking into franchises. I wasn’t looking into food,” instead checking out a golf franchise and many others. When his mom sent him the story, he emailed co-founders Stacy and the late Kevin Brown. “They said we’re not coming into Louisiana. I said let me know when it happens.”
By 2015 they met the couple. “We just fell in love with it. We signed for six restaurants that day,” Beau said. “We didn’t know a thing about the food business. We know a little more about it now.”
The Baton Rouge store is his fourth, and he says he’s learned many lessons along the way, including taking three years to get to profitability at his earlier stores. The first one included an extensive interior buildout on a space they were leasing. “I wouldn’t recommend that,” he said. Restaurants two and three were endcap buildouts, also both in leased space, with some tenant turnover that caused problems.
“This one, we own the land, we own the building. This is a long-term investment. You learn from the mistakes,” he said. They’ve now signed a letter of intent for a fifth store, this one in a large city center type of development, in which the developer is doing the buildout.
Pete Nicolosi, meanwhile, wasn’t a fan when he first took Maxine to that Destin restaurant. He had a roast beef sandwich (which the restaurant no longer serves.) “Who in the world’s going to eat chicken salad?” he said. Then he tried Dixie Chick. “I fell in love.”
"I think Chicken Salad Chick has one fo the best franchise models that we looked at. Everything that Kevin Brown told us was true. If you follow their Bible, you will be successful,” Pete said. Adds Maxine, as advice to other operators: “We didn’t take any money for a long time,” but now the established stores are cash-flowing.
Chicken Salad Chick gained last fall a much larger majority investor, Brentwood Associates with its $2.4 billion fund buying out Eagle Merchant Partners. CEO Scott Deviney said at the time he believes it will be “business as usual, luckily” at the Southeast-based restaurant chain. The Chicken Salad Chick story will be featured in the April issue as part of the Franchise Times Dealmakers award winners.