catch phrase at Albany’s Chic-Fil-A drive thru. Then again, this isn’t your typical fast food restaurant. Here, patrons are more likely to hear, “See you tomorrow!”
Happy customers are return customers and that’s exactly what has put the Albany store in the top three across the nation in terms of cost efficiency and profitability. In fact, in recent years the store ranked number one three years in a row for those accomplishments.
Owned by K.J. and Anna Wari, who purchased the store in 2002 from former operators, the Chic-Fil-A drive thru location on Dawson Road holds holds that number three ranking among 1,471 locations across the country.
“When we compare our store with others, we can’t compare customer service. But we (earned top ranking) through customer service. Our customer service kept people coming back and made us shine,” said K.J. Wari, whose children, Sara and Jason, also work in the family business.
The business’s success is attributed to the 47 employees trained under the biblical-based principals of the Chic-Fil-A corporation, of which the Wari’s are huge fans. On average, they hire one person for every 10 interviewed, taking extreme care to ensure whomever they add to the team will be a good fit.
Having well-trained, happy employees is key to the overall success of this corporation, which offers two levels of college scholarships to loyal employees. The Wari’s take the generosity a step farther and cover the cost of employee’s college textbooks not covered by the HOPE scholarship.
“That’s a way to keep good folks here and have an impact on encouraging them to stay in school,” said Anna Wari.
The drive thru competes for business with about 17 restaurants in a 1-2 mile radius, using top customer service practices to keep customers coming back. Their goals? Good quality food, served quickly, with a smile.
“We are here not to produce chicken sandwiches every day, but to train (employees) and teach them the ethics and values of business,” he added.
The Wari’s report they’ve never had difficulty in finding good employees to hire from the Albany pool, adding that they have the best results with first time workers as they can train them using Chic-Fil-A guidelines and not have to “untrain” habits learned at other jobs.
“This is what K.J. and I thrive on, pouring ourselves into the people,” said Anna Wari. “We don’t believe in giving up on people. Some are more challenged than others and you never know when the light bulb will go off and they will get it.”
In addition to the amount of time they commit to their business, the Wari’s also look for opportunities to penetrate the community and frequently help out organizations, schools and individuals, aiming for one community project per month. And when a school places an order, the Wari’s return 10 percent to the school.
Because they know how crucial good customer service is to the success of a business, the Wari’s offer customer service workshops to other businesses in the area. Lawrence Knighton, who manages sales for the store, says customer service training “is something that is desperately needed in Albany.”
He frequently addresses local groups on the basics of customer service and on other topics, including the interviewing process to teach students what potential employers are looking for in a new hire. In addition, Chic-Fil-A speakers share information about Chic-Fil-A’s core values, company history and general business knowledge through engagements at civic meetings and schools.
“Restaurants and businesses as a whole thrive on customer service,” he said. “I just love (Chic-Fil-A’s) customer service. I think we need businesses to focus more on customer service.”
Anna Wari agrees.
“We’re living proof that people go where they feel welcome and their patronage is valued.”
Written by K.K. Snyder.