A couple of weeks ago I went to a Chick-fil-A for the first time. For those of you who haven’t experienced one, Chick-fil-A is a quick serve restaurant (QSR) that focuses on chicken sandwiches. The company has a long history in the southern United States, but has recently begun expanding into the Midwest and California.
I’m not a big fast food person; I’ll go there when no other options exist. Chick-fil-A feels like a typical fast food establishment when you first enter, but then the similarities stop. Two things stand out immediately: the restaurants are cleaner than most, and there are people walking around in the dining area. These folks are cleaning tables and talking to customers. They’re also getting drink refills for customers.
This leads to the second observation: unlike just about every other QSR, the soft drink dispenser is behind the counter, rather than being a self-serve arrangement. This might be a cost-saving move, or a way to keep things clean, but it’s definitely a distinct difference from the competition.
One other thing that’s different about Chick-fil-A: they are closed on Sunday. There are signs in the lobby area stating this fact, and the company has resolutely stood by its decision to remain closed on Sunday. No other fast-food restaurant that I know of is closed on Sunday. The rationale for being closed Sunday is much debated, as it’s a direct result of the founder’s religious beliefs.
The thing that strikes me about Chick-fil-A is that it’s doing things that other fast- food operators would never consider doing. There are twice a many people working in a typical Chick-fil-A as in a typical McDonald’s. Service is clearly a focus; I was greeted when I came in, service was prompt and courteous, and the response to my “thank you” was “my pleasure.” At other places I’m lucky to get a gruff “no problem.”
Chick-fil-A is expanding at a breakneck pace, and by all indications, California is loving this restaurant. (Sorry McDonald’s). What’s their secret? Is the food better? Not necessarily; it’s not bad, but it’s hardly gourmet. Prices aren’t lower from what I could tell. And they are busy, which means it takes a little bit longer to get your order.
The biggest difference between Chick-fil-A and every other QSR is that they stand for something. What they stand for has certainly alienated some, but it’s created strong loyalty and true believers in the brand.
Herein is a lesson for all retailers—stop trying to be all things to all people, and focus on attributes other than price. Stand for something, and shout about it. You’ll lose some customers, for sure. However, it may be the first step to creating a loyal customer base that looks beyond the “lowest” price and begins to identify emotionally with you and your brand.
This post originally appeared on The Shelf Edge and has been reposted with permission.