Preparing the Next Generation of Workers Requires Creative Thinking and Chicken Nuggets

June 14, 2024

Lots of people enjoy the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. In fact, some peoples’ enjoyment of Chick-fil-A borders on obsession – as evidenced by the incredibly long lines seen at most Chick-fil-A drive thrus and especially at their airport terminal locations pretty much all the time. I get it, Chick-fil-A is a pretty solid if not better than that choice when you need a relatively quick meal. Me, I mostly patronize the chain to get grilled chicken nuggets as a treat for my dog, but nonetheless, I understand Chick-fil-A’s popularity, and I suspect that most readers understand it as well. 

But having a decent chicken sandwich is one thing, transforming the popularity of chicken and thoughtful customer service (“My pleasure”), into a bizarre kind of recruitment operation targeting kids in grades K – 6, (and their parents), is another thing entirely. It’s a decent sized step from “I like the chicken there” to “I can’t wait to one day put on a paper hat and get a job at Chick-fil-A”. But taking that step, or at least encouraging kids and parents to take that step, is happening at selected Chick-fil-A restaurants this summer.  

A few Chick-fil-A restaurants are holding “Summer Camps” for school-age children, where for the low fee of about $35 participants (kids) get the opportunity to where they learn “how to be a Chick-fil-A worker by taking orders, making drinks, and being a host(ess)”. When I read about this program, I frankly had to stop and read it over and over – it sounded so preposterous. But indeed, this Chick-fil-A “Pay us to have your kid pretend to work here for 3 hours” camp is a real thing. From a recent piece in Business Insider describing the program: 

A Chick-fil-A restaurant in Hammond, Louisiana, is hosting a “summer camp” for kids to get an inside look at the chain. 

Promoted for kids aged 5 to 12, the event promises “a behind-the-scenes view of what it’s like to work at America’s favorite quick-service restaurant.” 

The restaurant said the roughly 180 reservations across six days were booked within a day of being announced for a cost of $35 each. 

An earlier version of the event listing said that campers would “learn dining room host and customer service skills, learn how to take a guest order, learn how to bag a guest order, tour the kitchen and box your own nuggets, and make your own ice cream cone or cup.” A company spokesperson told Business Insider the location is one of several across the US that offer the three-hour event. Another location in New Orleans has a “camp” scheduled as well. 

Young kids, maybe up to about 7 or 8 years old, assuming they are fans of Chick-fil-A in the first place, might enjoy playing at being an employee of the restaurant, maybe not for three full hours, but probably for a little while, at least up until it is ice cream cone making time. Three full hours of “working” a shift may be a bit of a heavy ask for a 10-year-old, however. And don’t forget Mom and Dad forking over $35 for the privilege.  

A bigger question is just what the motivation is behind holding these Summer Camps at Chick-fil-A, from the perspective of the individual location owners (franchisors, technically). There is obviously demand for them, as evidenced by the locations referenced in the Business Insider piece who are seeing quick sellouts of all available places in the camps, and the ability to stage multiple sessions during the summer months. Maybe after expenses for extra staff and food for the campers, the Chick-fil-A makes an extra few dollars in revenue on what may be a typically slower day/time period. But it really can’t be THAT much – plus Chick-fil-A locations are enormously successful. The website Food Institute reports that Chick-fil-A has the highest annual average revenue per location, $6.7 million, in the entire fast-food industry. 

Could at least part of the motivation behind these events the need to build awareness of what it’s like to be a Chick-fil-A worker and to motivate at least a few of the campers to consider joining the Chick-fil-A crew when they are old enough to be employed there? Probably. One of the Louisiana locations is holding five Summer Camp sessions with anywhere from 25 – 30 campers in each one. So, out of 150 or so kids to participate in the Chick-fil-A employment experience, maybe they convert 5 or 6 kids to part-time workers once they become teenagers. Is the cult of Chick-fil-A strong enough to make that kind of lasting impression on young kids, that a three-hour taste of life behind the counter would motivate them to come on board as employees later on? 

Could be. People line up and wait for that chicken. 

It’s an interesting story and one that reminds all of us that finding and motivating people to work at any organization is a challenge, and creative thinking about how to get people interested in your organization as a place to work is increasingly important. 

Chick-fil-A has a really strong, well-known brand and enthusiastic customers and fans. And still at least some of the locations are getting way out of the box to continue to cultivate that brand connection. 

Perhaps it’s time to think about what your organization could or should be doing to do the same?

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