Meet Stacy Brown, the Chicken Salad Chick

Stacy Brown’s story is the American dream come to life. She started with a passion – developing the perfect chicken salad recipe and sharing the results of her work with family and friends. That passion gave rise to a dream – to turn her hobby into a full-fledged business venture. After overcoming a few legal and logistical hurdles, Stacy turned that dream into a reality and Chicken Salad Chick was born.

Chicken Salad Chick now has more than 70 locations across the Southeast, from Dallas to Charleston, S.C., the majority of which are owned by franchisees. The concept currently offers more than a dozen varieties of chicken salad served by the scoop or on a sandwich, as well as many other classic lunch staples. We reached out to Stacy to learn more about her journey and hear her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to turn their passions into businesses.

“My advice is to do everything you can to get your food in the mouths of as many people as possible and ask for honest feedback,” Stacy says. “The more feedback the better! You also need to be open to hearing what you may not want to hear. It helps make you better. If you aren’t getting overwhelmingly positive feedback, you may need to go back to the drawing board. Doing this helped me make a few tweaks here and there to get to the perfect recipe that knocked the socks off of people.”

Franchising Chicken Salad Chick was an obvious next step once the concept’s popularity and potential became evident. For operators seeking to build their thriving concept into a franchise, Stacy cautions against trying to build the franchising process from scratch and says it’s better to learn from others’ successes.

“For us, the biggest challenge was a lack of education about the process,” Stacy says. “We went out and thought, ‘we can create this from scratch,’ but if we had done our due diligence from the start, we would have realized we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel! So, don’t reinvent the wheel – educate yourself on the process, learn from others, and then build your processes. Furthermore, before you move forward and begin franchising, make sure you are a well-oiled machine with all of your t’s crossed and i’s dotted.”

Anyone who’s been involved with building a franchise knows that one of the greatest challenges in the process is ensuring that the company’s product remains consistent across all locations. Maintaining consistency comes down to having the right processes in place, says Stacy.

“That consistency plays into being a well-oiled machine. You have to build your processes to make sure you can be consistent across numerous locations before you grow. Consistency is in the details.

Chicken Salad Chick’s menu offers more than a dozen varieties of chicken salad to please just about any palate, from the Classic Carol made with “finely minced celery, mayonnaise, and our secret seasoning,” to spicy offerings like the Jalapeño Holly. How do Stacy and her team develop new flavors? It comes down to collaboration.

“We look for opportunities on our menu to capitalize on a new flavor profile,” she explains. “We look for great new trends in the food industry that we can bring to our guests, while putting our own spin on it. Now, we have a very collaborative effort. From guests to owners to our internal menu team, now we have numerous people weighing in with input. I love it because it assures us so many perspectives that cover our guest flavor profiles!”

Tanner West
Tanner West

A dedicated festival-goer, Tanner West has seen more bands perform live in the middle of hay fields and city parks than most people have probably heard of. Raised on beans and taters, he recently renovated a home and three vintage sheds in the back woods of East Tennessee that serves as a quiet retreat for reading and ready base for hiking and camping trips. Despite being able to craft 500-word descriptions of restaurant equipment, Tanner is a man of few words who described the best meal he ever ate in one word: Coffee.

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