Chick-fil-A is notorious about keeping things simple. Its menu features chicken, more chicken, and then some other kinds of chicken. The last time it added something to its menu was 2016, and it added--you guessed it--chicken. Well, a breakfast sandwich with grilled chicken. It's pretty much the same menu it's always had.

That's why it's such a big deal that on Monday the company added something new to its menu--macaroni and cheese. Not chicken.

By the look of things, its customers are squarely on the side of "thank you very much, we love you."

Full disclosure, we love Chick-fil-A at our house. We have four kids, whose regular diet would consist entirely of some form of chicken nugget and mac and cheese if they had their way (they don't--just to be clear).

And we're not the only ones.

Keeping things simple.

Chick-fil-A is now the third largest fast-food chain in America (behind McDonald's and Starbucks), and one of the reasons why is that keeping things simple allows it to consistently get it right for its customers. And its customers seem to agree it's doing a pretty good job, ranking the company highest in customer satisfaction among limited-service restaurants.

Which is all the more reason that making a change like this is such a big deal. Making a change can be tricky. Especially when your brand is all about keeping things simple and focused on one thing--in this case, chicken.

Mac and cheese might be a natural complement to chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches, but if your brand is all about being everyone's favorite place to get chicken, everything else better be just as good.

And by the way, mac and cheese isn't necessarily the easiest thing to get right. Mess that up and you're messing with more than just your menu, you're messing with your brand.

Be intentional about changes that make sense.

At the same time, when done well, making a change that makes sense gives you a chance to delight your existing customers and new ones. That's the key--that you only make changes that make sense for your brand. 

Chick-fil-A isn't adding cheeseburgers, or fish, or BBQ ribs. It's adding something that most people already associate with the main item on the menu. It also happens to be one of the few things likely to be more popular than a chicken sandwich for most people.

I'm not suggesting that people will suddenly flock to Chick-fil-A just because it now serves mac and cheese. That's not the point. The point is that the changes you make (or don't) say a lot about your brand. Chick-fil-A clearly knows its customers and made a rare change with them in mind. 

Changing your menu (or product, or whatever it is you do) can be risky if you aren't careful about what matters most to your customers. Chick-fil-A's history of resisting changing its menu based on fads or trends is a great example.

So far, it looks like its customers agree. Which, of course, is great for Chick-fil-A, but the bigger lesson is in how to be intentional about expanding your brand. Knowing your customers is one thing, providing great service is another, but delivering an experience that delights your customers over the long run is what keeps them coming back.

Published on: Aug 13, 2019
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