Long awaited restaurant opens in Leland
Story By Kass Fincher
After weeks of excitement among us Chick-fil-A aficionados, the much-anticipated Leland store opened on December 5. Business since then has been phenomenal for operator Veronica Weibel. Her sister and senior director Ashlee Pentony described the events of opening day. “It’s been a whirlwind of fun! In the days leading up to opening we had given out 120 drive-through invitations - to teachers, the mayor’s office, community offices – for a free meal. They came through the day before the opening and we got to meet people and have the team get a little bit of practice before opening day. That evening people came to sign up to get a chance to camp out for free Chick-fil-A meals for a year! We had 100 customers stay overnight and camp out – it was insane. The corporate marketing team stayed with them overnight and provided free coffee, cocoa and a sandwich.
“The next day, we opened at 6 a.m. and we were busy from the beginning. A lot of people had reached out via social media and we could put names to faces, so it was really exciting to do that. We exceeded our sales goals – we’re so happy to be engaged with the community.”
For operator Veronica, the excitement of the opening came after many months and years of working for Chick-fil-A. She started at age 16 working for the store in Apex and has worked for them ever since, with roles on the corporate training and development side as well as retail. She always wanted to be an operator, and her dream finally came true when she got the opportunity at the Concord mall store a few years back.
“It’s been a blessing for her,” says Ashlee. “She’s grown up working for them and she loves the company; it’s her passion. Her favorite part is meeting and being involved with the community. She no longer has the Concord store; this is her first free standing location. Leland is booming – we’re super excited about being here.”
Ashlee lives in Charleston and commutes to work. Veronica and husband John live in Leland and have three young boys – three, six and seven years old who love Chick Fil A – as well as another little fan on the way. Though her family grew up in Apex, Veronica went to UNCW and actually met her husband when both were working at the Chick-fil-A in Wilmington.
“Veronica is a woman of many talents,” says Ashlee. “The process of applying for and securing a franchise is intense, and she has the commitment and vision to be very successful.”
The corporate folks at Chick-fil-A in Atlanta definitely put applicants through a rigorous process. They go through a series of up to seven interviews over perhaps a nine-month period, asking about your vision, how you are connected in the community and your ideas for growing the business. According to Ashlee, they want to truly get to know their operators – it’s a franchise but it’s ultimately the operator’s restaurant, and they want to make sure that person is representing their brand and ideals.
Veronica’s application for the Leland location was approved a few years ago, but the hurricane delayed plans for opening until December last year. Her market is Brunswick County. Ashlee says that the restaurant’s results will be evaluated in about 18 months; there could be growth options under consideration after that. Much of the analysis they do will come from data secured from the Chick-fil-A app, which will show where customers are coming from and what could be potential new locations.
Of course, the restaurant’s success is not just dependent on the operator; the team is key. Veronica and her leadership group received 300 applications and interviewed them over three weeks in October. They looked for key characteristics in employees that Veronica has learned will be important to their success – making eye contact, smiling, greeting and thanking customers, a positive attitude and desire to serve. She also looks for the applicant’s involvement in the community.
As marketing director Ashlee says, “We want to be more than just a restaurant. We’re not just there to serve really awesome chicken sandwiches; we’re there to be involved and engaged in the community. The Boy Scouts lifted our flag on opening day. We are reaching out to schools and fund raisers. We’ve talked with the fire department and police staffs, asking how we can provide a service. We want to get involved with sports at high schools – a lot of our employees are in high school – it means a lot to us to support our employees’ activities too.”
It goes without saying those “really awesome chicken sandwiches” are important too! As many of us who always order the same thing may not know, the menu changes seasonally. And different locations are always testing a few new items – the mac and cheese is a huge hit. If you download the app, you can even customize your sandwich, for example adding cheese or bacon if you like.
The company that started as the Dwarf Grill in 1946 by S. Truett Cathy has come a long way. With over 2000 stores, the brand is strong and results are excellent compared to many other franchises, not in just sales but in people measures too. Industry comparisons reveal that Chick-fil-A has very low employee turnover, as well as extremely low operator dropout, many of whom stay with the company 20 years or more. According to Franchise City, “Chick-fil-A really seems to take excellent care of their employees and provides incentive programs for hard workers that show initiative to move up the ladder.”
Veronica and her team exemplify that commitment. And they serve us with a smile! But I also must mention how much I appreciate those parting words my server says when I receive my order: “It’s my pleasure.” A professional, sincere thank you means something these days, not to mention a really awesome chicken sandwich to go.
3571 Leland Town Center Drive
Monday – Friday
6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
6:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.