Chicken Salad Chick’s New Owner Says Don't Go Changin'
Scott Deviney, CEO of Chicken Salad Chick, says new majority owner Brentwood Associates likes brands "with strong consumer appeal, with a lot of white space."
Chicken Salad Chick has a much larger majority investor, Brentwood Associates with its $2.4 billion fund buying out Eagle Merchant Partners, but CEO Scott Deviney believes it will be “business as usual, luckily” at the 137-plus Southeast-based restaurant chain.
Deviney and Eagle Merchant Partners bought Chicken Salad Chick from the founders four and a half years ago. “They were great partners,” Deviney said in an interview yesterday. “When we bought the business it was 32 restaurants, so it needed investment ….we did it together.” He expects to finish 2019 with 146 restaurants.
Eagle Merchant was looking for an exit, so Deviney & Co. hired North Point Advisors and attracted interest from several funds, he said. “Brentwood is a wonderful partner for us, because they’re very consumer-focused. They like brands with strong consumer appeal, with a lot of white space. We have great customer scores.”
Deviney said both sides did plenty of due diligence. “The process was exhausting, as you can imagine. I will say this, we were very fortunate. We had some of the best of the best private equity groups that were interested in partnering with us. That was extremely humbling and extremely flattering.”
Brentwood Associates—which has also backed Zoes Kitchen, Orangetheory Fitness and Blaze Pizza—has majority ownership and will control the board. Deviney said his new investors have told him to stick to about 50 restaurant openings a year; continue the intense local focus of the restaurants; and continue to push the “craveable” homemade chicken salad recipe and their closed-on-Sundays policy.
“Brentwood didn’t come in and say, here’s 15 things we need you to change. Brentwood came in and said, keep doing what you’re doing. That was really refreshing,” he said.
He calls the Brentwood Associates people “very down to earth.”
“People, firms, restaurant brands, everybody has a reputation. We like to think we have a good reputation at Chicken Salad Chick. So what we had our antenna very high on, was listening to different groups…people who have worked for them or worked with them. You get a sense for how people work.”
Rahul Aggarwal, partner at Brentwood, said in a statement, “Chicken Salad Chick’s model fits well within our strategy of investing in high-growth, best-in-class consumer businesses.”
Stacy and Kevin Brown founded Chicken Salad Chick in 2008 in Auburn, Alabama.