It’s possible there could be a long-anticipated chick, or at least chicken, in Bartlett’s Easter basket this year. Allen Arant is opening his and the city’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant sometime around the end of March or early April.
The exact date has not yet been announced.
“The store is under construction and looking pretty good the last time I was there,” Arant said in a Feb. 9 phone interview. “It is a different design — more of a modern design than what you might be used to at some other Chick-fil-As in the area.”
The construction is at 2940 Kirby Whitten Road in Bartlett, next to Kroger. The new facility will have 86 parking spaces, a glass-enclosed children’s playground and all the menu items that local Chick-fil-A fans have come to expect. Catering will also be part of his operations from the first day.
Since before ground broke at the site, the question, “When is Chick-fil-A opening?” has been a popular one around Bartlett. Residents are ready to order everything from chicken biscuits, fresh fruit and a Hash Brown Scramble Burrito to the familiar lunch and dinner offerings of fried and grilled chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets, cool wraps, salads, soup and the popular waffle-cut fries.
Arant said his personal favorites are the Chocolate Chunk Cookie (“The cookie’s amazing”) and the Spicy Southwest Salad. He’s also looking forward to introducing new products, like the Frosted Sunrise (orange juice and ice cream).
The corporation chose this Bartlett location after careful market research, and the new owner himself is no stranger to the Mid-South. Arant is a farmer’s son from the Mississippi Delta. He graduated from Mississippi State in 2009 with a degree in accounting and immediately commissioned into the Army, where he trained and flew as a helicopter pilot for several years.
Then he served as a recruiting commander at his last duty station in Peachtree City, Ga., and was in charge of 45 soldiers, covering a territory of about 6,600 square miles.
“It was a great learning experience – I learned a lot,” he said. “I had previously deployed to Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot, which was its own little learning experience.”
His experiences in the Army developed his professional skills.
“I have a passion for leadership,” he said. “That’s what I was trained to do in the Army, to believe that everything really starts at the top. And if your leadership is solid, the leadership sets the tone of the corporate organization.”
Arant explained how he became part of the Chick-fil-A family. He was about seven or eight months away from his Army discharge, and he chatted about leadership and careers while visiting a friend. A neighbor who’d been listening piped up and said, “Well, I work for Chick-fil-A, and what you’re looking for is what we look for in owner-operators. You might want to think about applying.”
Arant was skeptical at first about joining the fast-food industry with no experience in the field. But he was won over during the next three weeks of praying, talking with his wife and talking to other people.
“The Lord just kept opening doors for me,” he said.
After his Army discharge in June 2017, he and his family moved to Olive Branch, Miss., and he worked as a project manager with FedEx in Collierville as he went through the franchisee approval process. It’s a long shot to be chosen and, for some, it can take years and several attempts. Arant went through multiple Chick-fil-A interviews and talked with other owner-operators and staff members to learn more.
He resigned from FedEx once Chick-fil-A approved him as an owner-operator.
Starting the week of Feb. 19, he expects to hire 70-90 full-time and part-time employees, from teens to adults of any age. Potential employees can apply online at cfabartlettcareers.com.
“I’m looking for people who have a heart of service,” he said. “Because I can teach you Chick-fil-A. The fact whether you have restaurant experience or no restaurant experience, it doesn’t matter to me. I really care the most about ‘Can you smile?’ and ‘Can you serve people with a genuine attitude of thankfulness and humility that your number one desire is to produce a great guest experience?’”
He explained what guides his hiring decisions. “At the end of the day, it’s really not about selling chicken. It’s about people. It’s about how we lead and interact with people and the relationships that we form with our guests, with team members, and with the community at large. To me, it all begins with Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose.”
That purpose is, “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Arant said his purpose is to serve guests in a fast, friendly and clean environment, while enriching the lives of his guests through genuine caring.
He added, “My hope, as the local operator in Bartlett, is that this community will embrace me as their Chick-fil-A, and I want to be their Chick-fil-A to them. I want this community to know that I care, and that my leaders care, and that my team members care.”