Golden Chick Hatches a Plan to Increase Market Share
New items add diversity to the menu and appeal to multiple markets.
After 52 years, Golden Chick continues to thrive by having the best products in its category. “We pride ourselves on focusing on taste and quality in everything we serve,” Howard Terry declares. “Whether it’s to grab lunch or feed the family, we can fulfill both of those needs.”
Terry is the senior vice president of marketing for the Richardson, Texas-based Golden Chick, which originally started operations in 1967. Today, it operates 181 restaurants primarily in Texas that serve its hand-rubbed roasted chicken, its Zagat award-winning chicken salad and its Original Golden Tenders.
Golden Chick’s menu has allowed the brand to “strike the perfect balance of quality and convenience,” Terry says. “We’re a QSR chicken concept to some customers and we are a home meal replacement outlet to others.”
Corporate Executive Chef J. Sullivan adds that the diversity of Golden Chick’s menu has allowed it to appeal to multiple markets, ranging from the suburbs to inner cities. With chicken and side items like green beans and fried okra, “It works everywhere,” he says.
Terry and Sullivan are longtime veterans of the restaurant industry. Before joining five years ago, Terry had spent 20 years with multiple concepts, including Denny’s, TGI Fridays and Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon.
Sullivan, who joined Golden Chick this year, has a resume that encompasses fine dining clubs and hotels, as well as serving as the director of culinary innovation for Burger King. “It takes a lot of big picture and outside the box thinking to deliver the same experience to a guest,” he says. “I really enjoy that challenge and that’s what brought me to Golden Chick.”
Both have implemented initiatives during their time at the company, which include creating a unique brand presence through marketing and advertising. Although the restaurants have a very loyal following, “We have some people that haven’t tried us for a very long time,” Terry admits.
Innovation, he notes, is key to sustaining interest and visit frequency from its loyal customers, as well as attracting those who have not tried Golden Chick yet. “We are putting a major focus on what I would call ‘realistic innovation,’” Terry says.
In this process, Golden Chick has made sure items customers would expect are on its menu, along with those they did not. “We want something that obviously fits with our brand but also something that none of our competitors offer,” he states.
Sullivan has played a role in this process as Golden Chick has tested new items with its loyal clients, as well those who dine at its competitors’ locations. During the tests, the company ensures that consumers are comfortable with the products and their price points. “We need to get their feedback before we decide what’s out there,” he says.
A top priority for Sullivan is developing a best-in-class chicken sandwich for Golden Chick. Currently, “The one I’m working on will beat any of ones that people have made headlines with,” he predicts.
Sullivan’s sandwich will feature a five-ounce breast fillet that will set Golden Chick apart from others. “We have the juiciest, biggest piece of chicken in our industry,” he says, noting that it will be served with the restaurant’s exclusive Lotta Zing sauce and fresh-baked yeast buns.
Golden Chick’s locations bake the sweet yeast buns daily, giving customers a product that is not only fresh, but also soft, airy and delicate. “It melts in your mouth,” Sullivan says. “There’s no way that our large competitors could ever pull this off.”
He adds that Golden Chick’s locations regularly prepare items fresh in their kitchen, unlike the competing chicken concepts. “Their specialty items are pre-manufactured,” he says.
By preparing items on site, “We’re able to give a great price on premium products that they never could,” he continues. “What you get is a consistent product every single time.”
Sullivan is developing a barbecue roasted chicken as well. “We allow it to marinate for 20 hours before it goes into our oven for roasting,” he describes, adding that Golden Chick is developing more side items as well.
While it currently offers coleslaw, potato salad and dirty rice, “I’m working to do some things with side items that are a spin on the traditional,” he explains. “I think we have some room to have soul food-type sides.”
These include collard greens and sweet potato casserole, as well as Latin-influenced sides, such as southern-style creamed corn. “I’m also working on a salad-and-soup program that’s slated to go into testing,” he adds. “We want to have more appeal than being Texas regional.”
But through this process, Terry asserts, Golden Chick will develop best-in-category items that were validated by consumers. Afterward, “We’ll make a determination if it’s a permanent item or a limited time line,” he says.
Since industry veteran Jim Stevens joined the company as its president, “We have very aggressive plans,” Terry says, noting that Nation’s Restaurant News recently named it has one of its top 200 brands.