Golden Chick Stays Strong During COVID-19
Many businesses have furloughed employees to survive the pandemic, but not Golden Chick. Instead, the Richardson, Texas-based restaurant chain kept every single worker employed during this tough time, President Jim Stevens says.
Golden Chick accomplished this feat by having its executive team take a $600,000 pay cut. “Because we’re a family-oriented organization local to Texas, we wanted to make sure we didn’t lay anybody off or furlough anybody,” he asserts.
Golden Chick operates 192 locations that serve its hand-rubbed roasted or fried chicken, its popular chicken salad and its Original Golden Tenders. The company, which started operations in 1967, had a plan to grow this year with 30 new locations and to remodel existing restaurants.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March, Golden Chick was forced to close its dining rooms. However, it continued to keep restaurants operational, serving customers through takeout, delivery and the drive-thru.
With its dining rooms closed, Golden Chick suffered a decrease in sales. “We went into the COVID-19 period being about 5 percent positive in sales,” Stevens recalls, noting that the company saw sales decline at restaurants by more than 15 percent. “It was a difficult time.”
Road to Recovery
In the months following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Golden Chick has emerged from the initial decline with a 20 percent increase in same-store sales. “We’re probably at the high end of those performing well during this pandemic,” Stevens says.
Some of the steps to recovery included re-focusing on brand communication and leadership. “When your sales takes a dive like that, you have to be in front of your franchisees and partners in the business,” he says. Golden Chick developed a process that allows it to communicate daily with its franchisees and advise them on what they should do from a cost-savings perspective.
Over the past two months, Golden Chick has re-opened some of its dining rooms while making sure to follow local regulations. This can be challenging, Stevens admits, since the guidelines of one county can be different from another.
But the company has coped. “We’re making sure we’ve got our sanitation stations, we’re wearing our masks and gloves and we’re temperature-checking the employees,” he describes. “We have a really good operational system in place.”
Golden Chick stayed the course with several of the construction and remodeling projects planned at the beginning of the year. Managing that work can be challenging during a pandemic, but “we haven’t hiccupped on our development,” Stevens asserts.
A Big Deal
Stevens takes pride in the promotions and products that Golden Chick has successfully launched during 2020. In February, it began a catfish promotion for consumers who needed to change their diets during Lent.
According to Stevens, the catfish allowed Golden Chick to see a sales increase until the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, Golden Chick launched a new product introduction — its butterfly shrimp, which helped it “get over some of the hurdle” of the initial pandemic sales decline, he says.
Golden Chick is poised to continue that success with the introduction of its new Big & Golden™ chicken sandwich, which features a marinated chicken fillet topped with its Lotta Zing sauce and five pickles. It also comes served on an extra-large fresh baked bun modeled after the restaurants popular yeast roll. “It tested phenomenally well,” Stevens says.
But the company is not done and is on track to introduce a new item in the fourth quarter of 2020. “It’s going to be something completely unique to the industry,” he teases.
Golden Chick showed its charitable side during the pandemic, including the donation of more than 700 sandwiches to local hospitals via its new mobile kitchen. “It got here two-and-a-half weeks ago and we immediately got out there,” Stevens recalls.
Golden Chick’s new state-of-the-art mobile kitchen is a 24-foot culinary kitchen on wheels. Christened “Big & Golden” the new mobile kitchen is a moving brand billboard featuring the chain’s brand colors and graphics. The mobile kitchen allows Golden Chick’s Ops team to deliver anything on its menu to large charitable functions, community events or private bookings.
Stevens adds, “Our new Big & Golden mobile kitchen allows us to take Golden Chick to many places and give the public a taste of our best-in-category food offerings.”
This work, along with the retention of its employees, has helped Golden Chick earn loyalty. “When the communities rally to help out restaurants in these tough times, it’s easy to rally around Golden Chick,” he says. “We’ve been in those communities for quite a while.”
Stevens sees a strong future for Golden Chick with its new products. “It is important that we continue to execute and drive our same-store sales over where they are today,” he says.
The company also wants to continue its growth momentum as it plans to build 41 more stores in 2021 in Nevada, Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. “It is important that we continue to nurture that pipeline and make sure we continue to open on course,” he says.