At the onset of COVID-19, everything we thought we knew about the restaurant industry was completely upended. Normal customer patterns vanished almost overnight. But even as we all became increasingly worried about the pandemic, we knew that Guthrie’s could serve as an important resource in the communities in which we operate. Within days of the initial shutdowns, we quickly pivoted to drive-thru, curbside and delivery where necessary.
Within weeks after closing our dining rooms, Guthrie’s sales made a drastic rebound because chicken fingers remain a personal source of comfort for both young and old – so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that our affordable hand-breaded chicken rooted in a tradition of fresh, hot, and fast, with a generous dash of southern hospitality has proven to be remarkably pandemic-proof. Between the onset of COVID-19 until now, Guthrie’s has been able to drive comp positive sales at many locations.
Furthermore, and since we were able to stay open throughout the worst of the crisis because of the strong leadership shown by our franchisees, managers and staff, and along with the immediate operational changes we made, Guthrie’s was able to keep our people employed at a time when they needed it the most.
“There was no playbook for how to handle a global pandemic, but from the onset we knew we had to make smart and efficient operational adjustments to meet the needs of a completely new consumer while keeping them safe, our teams safe and our communities as well,” said Joe Kelly Guthrie, CEO of Guthrie’s Franchising, Inc. “Chicken fingers have been very resilient in this COVID-19 environment. Guests appreciate the value, especially in uncertain times, of our hand breaded chicken fingers, fresh-chopped coleslaw, crinkle cut French fries, Texas toast and our iconic Guthrie’s sauce because of their uncanny ability to boost your mood, lighten your perspective and bring a smile to your face. And that’s something we all need more than ever.”
As a community-first brand, Guthrie’s commitment to our local customers has also proven to be of great importance to us and our franchisees during COVID-19. That kind of authenticity has proven invaluable.
“Guthrie’s is the real deal,” said Guthrie. “Founded in Haleyville, Ala. in 1965, Guthrie’s humble beginnings began as full-service restaurant and then expanded into our very first chicken fingers-only restaurant in Auburn. We haven’t looked back since. While our menu hasn’t changed since we opened in Auburn in 1982, we’re still evolving as a restaurant brand. That passion to graciously serve others is what drives our franchisees today. And it’s a real opportunity we have for growth.”
And while our drive thru and delivery channels have grown tremendously, our customers continue to come into our restaurants and order to-go or dine inside where allowed. We were very fortunate that our dining rooms all have free-standing tables and chairs, so we were able to remove excess furniture and create a really safe, spacious and controlled environment for our guests and staff.
Looking back, the one defining aspect of the Guthrie’s business that set us up for the summer and winter we’re experiencing despite the ongoing pandemic was our focus on drive-thru, take-out and delivery through smart, safe packaging and our ongoing investment in technology.
“Without a doubt, our drive thru has changed our trajectory as a brand,” said Guthrie. “Our investment in the technology to support that piece of the business has afforded us the ability to remain connected to our customers in a meaningful way even during the heights of the pandemic. This kind of consumer confidence and customer loyalty has been an integral part of our continued growth.”
Furthermore, the ability of our marketing to quickly pivot at the onset of the pandemic to reinforce our drive thru and while communicating these two basic principles – 1) we’re open 2) here’s how you can use us – helped reinforce to our customers that we weren’t going anywhere and that we were going to stick by them through this.
Going forward, we also see tremendous opportunity in real estate availability for both new and existing franchisees that are looking to grow. Guthrie’s is set to launch a drive-thru only model in the next few months as well. As long as consumer demand continues to rise to pre-COVID levels, our hyper focus on great real estate will afford Guthrie’s excellent positioning. To learn more or inquire why Guthrie’s is one of the best franchises to buy, visit guthrieschicken.com/franchising.