After running into unexpected roadblocks with Chick-fil-A corporate, county officials may tap Alabama-based Chicken Salad Chick as possible food service option at Government Plaza.
As Lagniappe has reported, the Mobile County Commission approved a temporary agreement with Chick-fil-A’s downtown location on Royal Street in March to sell pre-prepared food at Government Plaza during a limited test period.
According to County Attorney Jay Ross, everyone was happy with the proposed arrangement until it was nixed by Chick-fil-A’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta — even though the company operates similar off-site locations in other areas of the country.
“I don’t know that those operate in government buildings, which is what I think was the issue at the corporate level,” Ross said. “All we know is that the corporate entity told the franchise they wouldn’t let them do it, and these franchisees are probably regulated pretty carefully.”
The county made the announcement that the agreement with Chick-fil-A had fallen through during Thursday’s conference meeting, but Ross said officials were proactive in reaching out to potential replacements and Chicken Salad Chick seized the opportunity.
Founded in Auburn in 2008, Chicken Salad Chick has grown substantially over the past 11 years and currently operates 119 stores as far west as Dallas and as far north as St. Louis. Three of those locations — two in Mobile and one in Daphne — are reasonably close to Government Plaza.
According to Ross, like Chick-fil-A, Chicken Salad Chick won’t be preparing food at the location but will instead bring it in from an existing store. They will be making use of the refrigeration system in the county’s kitchen.
Under its now-defunct arrangement, Chick-fil-A had agreed to give the county 10 percent of its pre-tax sales from the Government Plaza location to pay for the space occupied and use of county equipment.
A final agreement with Chicken Salad Chick, which would establish the contributions to the county and the menu, hasn’t been released to the public. A firm date for the start of the test run is also unclear, though Ross said he expected it to be operating within the next few weeks.
“They’ve given us their menu, but I think they may have to pare that down some,” Ross said. “It’s quite a selection of soups, salads and what they call flavors of chicken salad.”
The commissioners have yet to vote on the proposed agreement with Chicken Salad Chick, but the measure is likely to pass along the same lines as the planned agreement with Chick-fil-A.
Commissioner Merceria Ludgood voted against that proposal because she said the county shouldn’t compete with other private businesses in the downtown area. Thursday, Ludgood said she plans to vote against the agreement with Chicken Salad Chick for the same reasons.
Unlike Chick-fil-A, which already has a location in one of the more heavily trafficked areas of downtown Mobile, the nearest Chicken Salad Chick is almost 10 miles away at the intersection of Old Shell Road and University Boulevard.
“I still feel an obligation to our private restaurant owners, who’ve invested so much into their businesses. I don’t want to set up head-to-head competition, which is what I feel like we’re doing,” Ludgood said. “We’ve asked them to invest in downtown, then we’re pulling employees and jurors back into the building that would otherwise be patronizing those establishments.”
Commissioner Jerry Carl didn’t comment on the proposal with Chicken Salad Chick but has supported previous agreements with potential food service vendors. The same is true for Commission President Connie Hudson, who was absent from Thursday’s meeting.
A final vote on the agreement is expected at the commission’s May 13 meeting.
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