When Chicken Salad Chick, one of the nation’s fastest-growing restaurant chains, opens its first location in St. Petersburg next week, it will bring a special St. Pete touch to the 4th Street location.
The entrance to the fast-casual restaurant features a mural painted by local artist and gallery owner Alyssa Marie, and is the only Chicken Salad Chick location to feature a mural, said Linsay Rohr of Simply Southern Pinellas Group LLC. Rohr and her husband, Paul Rohr, are multi-unit franchise owners, with three other stores in Palm Harbor, Seminole and Trinity.
“St. Pete is such an artsy town, so we wanted to really fit in and be a part of that experience,” Linsay Rohr told the St. Pete Catalyst.
Alyssa Marie was able to create a joyful, light-hearted, welcoming mural that truly represents the brand and invites guests in, Rohr said. “The mural lets St. Pete know, we’re officially here and excited to be a part of the community enriching lives, spreading joy and serving others.”
Chicken Salad Chick offers more than a dozen original chicken salad flavors along with salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts. Founded in 2008 by Stacy Brown and her late husband, Kevin Brown, the Atlanta-based chain is now partly owned by private equity firm Brentwood Associates and has more than 180 restaurants in 17 states.
The newest store, at 1221 4th St. N., opens Tuesday, March 2, and will employ about 50 people. There will be a week-long grand opening celebration that will include giveaways and specials, in keeping with the restaurant’s tradition but adapted to ensure safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The inspiration to open the St. Pete store, and specifically on 4th Street, came from customers, Linsay Rohr said in an email interview.
“Through our restaurants in Seminole, Trinity, and Palm Harbor, our guests would always mention how St. Pete would be such a great spot for the brand. So, we visited the area and immediately fell in love. St. Pete is such a neat area with a great sense of community!”
Catalyst: What is your background in restaurants?
Rohr: Paul and I had backgrounds with a medical device company as well as managed a few business opportunities in real estate and retail. While we had an entrepreneurial spirit, Chicken Salad Chick was really our first introduction into the restaurant space and quickly became our passion project. In fact, I never expected to open my own restaurant until I encountered Chicken Salad Chick. The brand was so unique and it aligned with all of our family values, we couldn’t pass it up!
While my husband still works in the medical field, we’ve managed to grow our restaurant presence to a total of four stores since 2016. Along the way, we’ve made so many meaningful community, customer, and employee connections. The entire experience has been rewarding and has enabled us to give back in a way we never realized was possible.
Catalyst: What drew you to the Chicken Salad Chick franchise?
Rohr: THE FOOD! As a South Carolinian and southerner at heart, I love chicken salad and this was the best I have ever had! (Sorry, Mom…). When I heard of a restaurant dedicated to serving up Southern charm and a variety of chicken salad flavors, I was immediately head over heels. It felt like home and, from that feeling, I knew I had to bring it to the rest of Florida!
So, my husband and I prayed a lot about it and we were led right to where we are now. My husband had a full-time job and we were raising our babies, who at the time were 1, 3, and 5, so we definitely needed God’s guidance in this huge decision. We also resonated closely with the founder’s story, Stacy Brown, who was a single mother who started her own business to provide for her family and, along the way, found a new life passion. Now, we couldn’t be any happier with our decision to get started!
Catalyst: What were the operational challenges you ran into in getting the St. Pete restaurant ready to open during the pandemic? What were the challenges at the three restaurants already operating?
Rohr: Covid definitely brought about a whole new set of changes we had never encountered previously. We of course doubled down on safety and sanitation procedures across all of our restaurants and brought that mentality into the St. Pete opening. With construction, there were a few adjustments here and there but luckily, we were able to keep everything on track for the most part.
Overall, our employees made it possible for us to pull through and make adjustments to operations so quickly. We view them as an extension of our family, especially following the past year. Leaning into their experience, we have crossover opportunities for various employees to work out of the St. Pete location, bring in their knowledge, and develop new opportunity at another location. We also see catering as a huge opportunity moving forward and really lean on our teams to execute that vision with us.
When it comes to grand openings, Chicken Salad Chick is known for our exciting week-long celebrations. Of course, it was an adjustment to ensure the St. Pete grand opening week would be just as jam packed while also adhering to social distancing. Therefore, grand opening week will look a little different, as guests space out in line or wait in their cars after receiving their spot to return, but it is sure to be just as exciting and safe.
Grand opening celebrations for the St. Pete store include free chicken salad for a year for the first 100 customers on March 2, as well as other giveaways. There’s a full list on the store’s Facebook page.
The Rohrs also have established fundraising opportunities across their restaurants to support local charities, with over $15,000 donated to the Folds of Honor Foundation in 2019 and $30,000 last year.