What Is Chick-fill-A’s Product Managers Secret To Success?

Chick-Fill-A product managers are riding the wave of breaded chicken demand
Chick-Fill-A product managers are riding the wave of breaded chicken demand
Image Credit: ccPixs.com

When lunch or dinner rolls around and you are hungry, what do you want to eat? If you are like most of us, you start looking for a fast food restaurant where you can go get a good meal and get in and get out. A number of possibilities come to mind: McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc. However, if you are like me, all of those possibilities are viewed as being boring and I’ve eaten there so many times my mouth does not get excited about the prospect of eating there again. That’s when, depending on where you live, you might start to think about Chick-fil-A. If so, then you’d be like an increasing number of restaurant goers who are visiting Chick-fill-A more and more. What is the Chick-fil-A’s product manager’s secret to success?


The Demand For What Chick-fil-A Provides

So what have the Chick-fill-A product managers done to make Chick-fill-A stand out from all of the other fast food restaurants that are out there? A key part of their success lies in what is, and is not, on their menu. The Chick-fill-A menu focus on their breaded chicken-breast sandwich that is served with pickles and is served on a buttered toasted bun. You can get both breakfast and salads at a Chick-fill-A; however, their product development definition menu has been kept simple and this is something that makes Chick-fill-A different from all of the other restaurants that are out there.

Keeping it simple has served Chick-fill-A well. They are now well positioned to be become the third largest U.S. restaurant chain only trailing McDonalds and Starbucks. The reason that they have been able to achieve this is because the chain has been growing and more and more people are seeking out chicken when they want to have a meal. Something that makes Chick-fill-A unique is that the stores are all closed on Sundays. This has not prevented the chain from reaching US$10.2B in sales. Sales at the restaurant have tripled over the past 10 years.

In addition to the food that it serves, Chick-fill-A is known for its customer service. The chain now consists of roughly 2,400 stores which would look good on anyone’s product manager resume. The product managers are currently in the process of opening new stores in locations that are not in the southern part of the U.S. which will be a change for the chain. There are questions about the chain’s ability to get the same level of loyalty from its customers when it is not operating from its base in the south. As the company expands, it’s also going to have to deal with push back from people who disagree with the company’s CEO’s comments on social issues such as same sex marriage.


Chick-fil-A’s Plans For Success

The way that any restaurant can be successful is if it is able to generate support from its customers. Chick-fill-A has done a very good job of this. Chick-fill-A has been the top-rated restaurant since 2015 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index. This ranking is based in part on the courtesy of the staff and the cleanliness of the restaurant. Something else that is contributing to the success of Chick-fill-A is that they are getting good grades from younger diners. Surveys of teenagers show that Chick-fill-A is ranked as their favorite restaurant.

What Chick-fill-A provides its customers with is another factor that is contributing to its success. More and more restaurant customers are seeking out chicken when they go looking for food. It turns out that last year, in the U.S. restaurants served more than 2.5 billion breaded-chicken sandwiches. The number of sandwiches that have been bought has increased 17% over the past decade. At the same time the number of burgers that have been served has slipped 5% to 7.4 billion. Chick-fill-A has a market share of 33% among restaurants that mainly serve chicken. At the same time, the market share of competitor KFC fell to 15%. Chick-fill-A is also taking away from burger sales.

Chick-fill-A’s success is causing its competition to take notice and to start to compete directly with them. Competing restaurants are starting to try to tap into the rising popularity of chicken and in order to do so are making changes to their menus. KFC is going to once again be opening new restaurants. McDonalds has taken steps to simplify its menu. Wendy’s has added chicken sandwiches to its menu. Each year the Chick-fill-A product managers add an average of 12 permanent or limited time items to their menu. This is in contrast to McDonalds that added 49 items recently and Burger King that added 37 items. Most owners of Chick-fill-A restaurants only own one restaurant. This allows them to ensure consistent food quality. This is contrast to the average McDonalds restaurant owner who operates six stores.


What All Of This Means For You

If you are going to be a product manager who works for a fast food chain, you’d like to be one who works for a successful fast food chain. There are a lot of fast food restaurants out there. However, when it comes to serving chicken sandwiches, one restaurant chain stands out from all of the others: Chick-fill-A. They have been successful because their product managers understand their product manager job description and know how to meet the needs of their customers. What is the secret to their success?

Key to Chick-fill-A’s success is their menu. Their primary product is a breaded chicken-breast sandwich. Their product managers have kept their menu simple and this makes Chick-fill-A unique. Chick-fill-A has been expanding and growing. They are poised to become the third largest restaurant chain in the U.S. As Chick-fill-A expands outside of the south in the U.S., there are questions as to if it can be as successful. Comments made by its CEO may turn some customers away. Chick-fill-A consistently ranks highly on customer’s lists of restaurants that they like to go to. One of the reasons for Chick-fill-A’s success is because more and more customers are seeking out chicken sandwiches. Chick-fill-A’s success has caused its competition to take notice and start to make changes. However, Chick-fill-A managers generally only own one store and this allows them to focus on the quality of service that they deliver.

The Chick-fill-A product managers have resisted the urge to offer more products and different varieties of what they are already offering. By keeping things simple, they’ve made it easy for customers to come, find what they want, order it and get their meals with little chance of an error being made. All of this has created a very supportive fan base that has propelled the success of Chick-fil-A. The future will be different from the past as the store expands into new areas. The product managers need to keep their eyes focused on what has worked for them so far and make sure that new customers like the restaurant for the same reasons that their existing customers like them.


– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™


Question For You: Do you think that Chick-fill-A should ever start to offer non-chicken products to meet the needs of their customers?


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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So just imaging this scenario: you are the product manager for a wildly successful mobile application. In fact, your application is so successful that your company got bought by another much larger online company for a lot of money just a few years ago. That was all well and good, but the reason that you got bought was because that other company thought that you would eventually be able to make enough money to justify their investment in you. As a product manager, how would you go about transforming your free-to-use service into a money making machine?

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