MATTHEWS – There’s a new restaurant opening in Matthews dedicated entirely to chicken salad… and now we’ve officially seen it all.
Chicken Salad Chick, a Southern-inspired, fast casual restaurant serving up 12 types of chicken salad, will open Sept. 11 in Sycamore Commons on Matthews Township Parkway.
The first guest in line on opening day will receive one large “Quick Chick” of chicken salad per week for an entire year, while the next 99 guests will get a free large “Quick Chick” of chicken salad per month. Any guest not part of the first 100 in line can make a purchase and enter to win free chicken salad for a year. There will also be other giveaways and specials throughout the week.
Not a fan of chicken salad? Owner Jennifer Dennis says don’t knock it ‘til you try it. The menu offers a dozen original flavors from Classic Carol (all white meat shredded chicken, finely minced celery, mayo and secret seasoning) to Kickin’ Kay Lynne (chicken salad with buffalo sauce, ranch, bacon, shredded cheddar, jalapeños and Sriracha). There’s also egg salad, pimento cheese, broccoli salad, grape salad, mac and cheese, soups, salads, desserts and signature sandwiches like the pimento cheese BLT and the turkey pesto.
Dennis likes the Fruity Fran (chicken salad with Fuji apples, seedless grapes and pineapple), while her assistant manager, Robin Boulware, likes the grape salad (red and white seedless grapes covered in a sweet cream cheese mixture and topped with brown sugar and crushed pecans).
“Most people never heard of grape salad, but it’s really good,” Boulware said.
Dennis learned about Chicken Salad Chick from her husband, Mark, who tried it on a business trip in Alabama. He thought she would like it and took her to the nearest location at 7617 Pineville-Matthews Road in south Charlotte. She was instantly obsessed.
“I’m very particular about chicken salad, and it was amazing,” Dennis said. “He didn’t think when he took me out to lunch that I was going to be like, ‘Wow. This is something we could do.’ He was literally just taking me to lunch.”
The Indian Trail couple is well versed in franchising. They own a premier early education and childcare concept called Primrose School at Austin Village, located at 5407 Potter Road in Matthews. Dennis said they were interested in diversifying their portfolio into the fast-casual foodservice industry and opening a Chicken Salad Chick franchise “just felt right.”
“It’s not just a quick service restaurant,” she said. “Our customers feel happy, feel welcome and we deliver their food in a way that makes them feel special and I think that’s the difference. I believe the meal is not only the food – it’s the experience.”
The Chicken Salad Chick concept was started in 2008 by Stacy Brown, a stay-at-home mom from Auburn, Alabama. As the story goes, Brown had always been on a quest to find the perfect chicken salad. One day, she set to work perfecting her own recipe, recruiting her family and neighbors to taste-test, before arriving at “the one.” She dropped off samples in teachers’ lounges and hair salons, and then started selling door-to-door. Orders poured in and Chicken Salad Chick was born. Brown eventually stopped cooking out of her home kitchen and opened a small takeout restaurant.
In 2015, Eagle Merchant Partners purchased a majority stake in Chicken Salad Chick and now there are more than 125 Chicken Salad Chick restaurants in 15 states. The Matthews location is the brand’s third Charlotte-area restaurant and fifth overall in the state. An additional location in Wilmington is slated to open later this year.
Dennis’ restaurant is nestled between Massage Envy and Qdoba, in the former home of Grapes Wine Bar. She said she chose Sycamore Commons because of the high vehicle and foot traffic, plus Matthews has the right demographics of chicken salad lovers, which are mostly women.
“This is a great community and there’s nothing else like that here, so I thought it’d be unique to the community,” Dennis said.
“Matthews is growing, but it still feels like a small town. It’s not so commercialized, so to speak,” Boulware added. “This is a great additive to the area because it’s something different.”
Construction on the restaurant started in July, and crews are working hard to get it up and running for opening day. Boulware said it’s been a lot of hard work, but she’s excited for all the pieces to finally come together.
“When I saw the pictures going up on the walls the other day, I almost had tears,” she said.”
As a general manager at Zaxby’s for 10 years, Boulware hopes to bring her networking, customer service, organizational and management skills to Chicken Salad Chick. She said she’s looking forward to finally serving everyone in the community who she’s met over the summer while spreading the word about the grand opening.
“People are really excited, and we are too,” she said.
Want to go?
Chicken Salad Chick is located at 2233 Matthews Township Pkwy., in Matthews. It will be open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.chickensaladchick.com or follow @chickensaladchick on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.