Church’s Chicken

Feb 15, 2021 | Report Announcements

Church’s specializes in Southern-style, hand-battered, double-breaded fried bone-in chicken (available in Original & Spicy) which is marinated for 12 hours & freshly prepared throughout the day in small batches and complimented by its freshly baked home-style sides and scratch-made Honey Butter Biscuits to form a complete meal for individuals and families. The chain has a Southcentral geographic concentration (Texas roots) with a target market that includes lower income, urban families and value oriented young adults. A 2019 repositioning (supported by new image & national ads) seeks to reach towards to a slightly higher income demo (lower to middle income) without losing its leadership in value for price paid. In essence, its repositioning seeks to move the brand away from its historic positioning as a deep discounter that was well known for in-window dark meat bargains. The brand’s strength in access (digital ordering jumped +80% post-lockdown) and value is emphasized by its “Go Box” campaigns which promote its ability to feed 6+ for just $20.99 (a complete meal for $3.50/head). Access also benefits from an ongoing rollout of curbside pick-up and delivery offered at 800 stores. The brand’s repositioning helped comps and Church’s annual sales have steadily improved (albeit just slightly) from 2018 – 2020. Post-lockdown 2020 results benefited from Church’s drive-thru format and its value-oriented home-meal-replacement equation which was well suited to 2020. Further, 2020 results benefitted from Church’s successful launch of its chicken sandwich which helped the system participate in the chicken sandwich craze sparked by Popeyes in 2019. Notably, 2020 results were achieved with their dining rooms closed for nearly 10 months during this time. While system fundamentals are improving, it is notable that an abundance of older stores in outdated, low-income markets (corresponding to a 68-year-old system) and use of smaller non-traditional sites explains a material AUV under-performance. Further, challenging historical system fundamentals, a low sales-to-investment ratio and a high build/buy ratio translated into very modest gross new unit development. In conclusion, Church’s is executing around a well-conceived turn-around plan that is beginning to gain traction at the same time consumer demand for all things chicken continues strongly.

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