“My favorite item on the menu is the spicy deluxe chicken sandwich with pepperjack cheese,” says Chris Hobert, owner/operator of the Chick-fil-A (CFA) restaurant at Yoder Plaza next to Patrick Henry Mall. “I prefer spicy, but we have something for everyone,” he says. “The grilled chicken would be the ‘healthiest’ item. We also have soups and salads.”
Hobert is originally from New Jersey. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and spent 11 years in the U.S. Navy based in Virginia Beach as a seal. “I had three deployments to Iraq/Afghanistan. I also served in Panama, Spain, Germany, Hungary and Africa. I was never actually assigned to a ship. My wife and I met in Virginia Beach.”
While still in the Navy, Hobert began researching franchise opportunities. “I had always wanted to own a business. My father owned a hardware store, and I liked the ownership idea and being in charge.” He decided that CFA had a proven business model and provided a unique opportunity. “However, you can’t ‘buy in.’ It is a rigorous process,” he says.
Hobert was working in Delaware when the ownership opening came. “I was looking for the right location,” says Hobert. The Yoder Plaza CFA had opened in 1996 and was updated in 2020. “It was the first ‘free-standing’ CFA on the Virginia Peninsula. All others were in malls. I took over in October of 2020.”
“CFA provides everything needed,” says Hobert. “I like the positive work environment. It’s a great first job for young people, especially high school and college age,” he adds. Employees learn customer skills and teamwork. Many are full time. There is room for growth and leadership opportunities. It definitely is a “hard job.” “We are always busy. Stamina and patience are needed,” says Hobert. “And, because of our quick service and outdoor double lines, it is necessary to be in all kinds of weather,” he adds.
“We do offer good benefits, including scholarships,” says Hobert. Currently, CFA/Yoder has 120 on staff. “But we always have an opening,” he adds. A busy shift has 40+ employees. During peak hours 200 or more cars pass through. There can be 2,500 to 3,000 customers per day.
“Dining room business is picking up post pandemic, but the drive-through is still our ‘bread and butter,’” says Hobert. CFA also offers delivery, partnering with outside services. Call-in/pickup is also significant.
S. Truett Cathy opened a small restaurant, The Dwarf Grill, in the Atlanta area in 1946. He developed his signature sandwich (fried chicken with two pickles on a toasted bun) and opened the first CFA restaurant in 1967. The original restaurants were in malls. Cathy passed away, and ownership passed to his son, then to his grandson. The company is privately held and headquartered in Atlanta. It is known for its conservative policies, including being closed on Sundays.
Hobert is married with two sons, 8 and 10, and two dogs. The family enjoys going to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. When time permits, he runs and reads (usually about business and leadership).
Looking to the future, Hobert is considering adding another store. In the meantime, Hobart suggests customers should continue looking for those seasonal customer favorites. “All of our limited time flavors are very popular,” says Hobert.
SOME FUN FACTS:
- There are 2,875 restaurants, mostly in the U.S.
- Annual revenue is $16 billion.
- No restaurants are located in Alaska or Vermont. One just opened in Hawaii.
- The “healthiest” item in the menu is the grilled chicken sandwich.
- CFA is rated #1 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
- The unhealthiest item on the menu is the sausage, egg, cheese biscuit.
- Waffle fries are the biggest seller.
- The busiest CFA is in Manhattan, New York (one purchase every 16 seconds)
- The chicken is always fresh, never frozen.
- Yes, McDonald’s outsells CFA.
- The popular cow mascot may be back!
TO THE POINT:
Address: Yoder Plaza, 12128 Jefferson Ave., Newport News VA 23602
Contact: Chris Hobert: owner, operator