Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Chicken Salad Chick

When it comes to takeout, chicken salad is a criminally underrated option. For how nourishing, easy, and ultimately delicious it is, it's surprising more fast food chains haven't jumped on the lunch staple as a menu offering. Luckily for enthusiasts, cold chicken salad stands on its own at Chicken Salad Chick. Served with a heaping scoop of hospitality in more than 200 locations, predominately across the South, each batch is whipped up in house and comes in a dozen flavors combining the sweet and savory, zesty and spicy. Bold names like Fancy Nancy and Sassy Scotty bring to mind the coolest girl gang on the block — only in this case, everyone is part of the pack. At Chicken Salad Chick, every customer who walks in the door is just like family.

Since its 2008 debut, Zippia reports that nearly 1,100 people have joined the Chicken Salad Chick team, dishing up the creamy comfort food while promoting the company's mission to "spread joy, enrich lives, and serve others." With earlier hours, a cheerful atmosphere, and of course chicken salad in all of its delicious forms, the Alabama-based chain seems like a great place to begin your career in food service and beyond. But if you've never heard of the business before now, and aren't familiar with how things operate, you're far from alone. Before pulling the trigger on that application, make sure you see it from the employees' side on what it's really like to work at Chicken Salad Chick.

Chicken Salad Chick offers robust franchising oppportunities

Franchising is one way to achieve your entrepreneurial goals, especially when the company is a rising star in the fast food world. In fact, most of Chicken Salad Chick's restaurants are operated by franchise owners (via QSR Magazine). And proprietors are offered oodles of resources to make their dreams of a successful business come to life. The chain, for starters, boasts reasonably-priced investment costs on its website, such as a $50,000 franchising fee and 5% annual charge towards royalties. There's also the minimalist, streamlined kitchen format that's absent of money-guzzling equipment such as deep fryers (per Restaurant Dive). Compared to the millions Franchise Gator reports is needed to own franchises under a mega-chain like McDonald's, a Chicken Salad Chick of your own promises to not break the bank, even while bringing in a lot of dough per unit. 

Giving business owners the tools for profitability is another way Chicken Salad Chick stays on top of the franchising game. Not only do operators enjoy ample participation in the corporate side of things, but the chain will also assist them every step of the way. For example, Auburn University's Harbert College of Business reports that company headquarters will host franchise owners for coaching seminars ahead of store unveilings in order to get them on the proper path. As CEO Scott Deviney told QSR Magazine in 2018, "Our business is pretty simple. We can teach you how to run a restaurant, and run it very well."

It's good for part-time or entry level work

Part-time jobs, especially in food service, are an excellent way to enter the workforce or supplement your income. The simpler tasks provide a useful training ground for future employment down the road, while flexible scheduling aligns seamlessly with students in the thick of high school or college. It's no wonder, then, that many tout Chicken Salad Chick as an ideal entry-level opportunity. 

"I had fun working here for several years part-time while I was in school," a cashier raved on Indeed, adding that they worked at the restaurant for seven years during that time. A line cook based in Texas commented that the role provides a fitting opportunity for school-aged candidates "to get experience in the restaurant industry" (per Indeed). And even if you're well past your teenage years, one cashier pointed out that Chicken Salad Chick's approachable atmosphere need not only apply to the youth. "This is a great place to work for employees of all life stages" (via Indeed). 

As a current sales associate wrote on Indeed, those seeking out longer-term employment may want to look elsewhere due to the shorter hours available. "This job is great if you are in public school or college ... and you aren't expecting 40-plus hours a week." So for teenagers wanting to pad out their piggy banks over the summer, it's the perfect job. Applications require candidates to be 16 years of age and can be filled out from the chain's website

The work environment is clean and orderly

Where southern hospitality's concerned, nothing is more important than keeping a restaurant as spotless as can be. It's one of Chicken Salad Chick's biggest aims according to Restaurant Dive, and while maintaining orderly dining dwellings hold a lot of sway for patrons, it's equally important for the employees working there. Many of them say that kitchens are kept neat and tidy, with one former employee on Indeed asserting that the space was always hygienic. You can always count on seeing someone wipe down the tables or the bathrooms at some point during the day. 

Another plus to working at Chicken Salad Chick is the lack of messy food prep. Remember how we mentioned that the chain doesn't have any fryers? Without having to deal with the greasy stove tops or the stench of burning smoke, workers can clock out of their shifts as clean as when they arrived. "I liked that the food was fresh and you don't smell after leaving work," one former team member admitted (via Indeed). 

Another former employee from Mississippi also attested to the restaurant's sanitary state on Indeed. They confirmed that gaining first-hand knowledge of the procedures behind the scenes would be able to assure anyone, employee or not, that the chain takes proper hygiene seriously. "It's a very clean and presentable environment," they revealed, and for that reason along they "highly recommend working or eating here!"

Food prep occurs regularly before and after shifts

Chicken Salad Chick impressively makes all of its salads by hand. With how busy the chain gets, not to mention the sheer amount of varieties served every day, we have to wonder: where does it find all the time? It turns out, it's all about being proactive. To guarantee restaurants are well-stocked, employees will assemble dishes prior to opening and after closing to prepare for the following business day. 

In a video on its website, regional trainer Zach LaVoy explained how a method called "close-to-opens" has helped the establishment stay organized, promising that every shift goes off without a hitch. Essentially, this involves preparing menu items the night before so the team members who handle opening duties will have everything ready to go. The kind of work you can expect during  "close-to-opens" are basic kitchen tasks: chopping up the ingredients, mixing the dressings, or packing up the pre-assembled salads for the refrigerated Quick Chick section.

If you're assigned to handle the prep side, just be aware that it's no walk in the park. A crew member out of Florida claimed to whip up over 50 pounds of the chicken salad on a daily basis, on top of handling customer orders and preparing meals (per Indeed). However, the job is also capable of being laidback and fun, too. "I enjoyed working in the back where I was prepping food, and able to listen to music," an employee wrote on Indeed. 

It's common to juggle multiple stations

At Chicken Salad Chick, you can get hired as a cashier, sandwich maker, line cook, you name it. But getting a job prepping salads in the kitchen, for example, doesn't necessarily mean you won't have to take orders at the front counter from time to time, either. It's common to regularly juggle multiple responsibilities while on the clock, sometimes bouncing from one station to the next. One thing's for certain, it isn't just a possibility that employees might go beyond the initial job agreement — it's to be expected.

Truth be told, food service environments usually have to reckon with unforeseen circumstances. All it takes is one no-show to send a crew scrambling for help wherever they can get it, forcing workers to do more than they bargained for. That being said, when employees are expected to do it all without getting so much as a raise, that's where the issues arise. This was the situation for a former prep cook in Tennessee who gave their experience working at Chicken Salad Chick a one-star rating on Indeed. In their words, "I did everything" for little more than the minimum wage. "I washed dishes, I did food prep, I served the food, I made the food when it was ordered, and I was head cashier. All for $10.50 an hour." Another employee chimed in, claiming that "they expect you to learn new areas and not promise pay" (via Indeed). 

There's a strong commitment to work-life balance

Achieving some semblance of free time outside your job can be difficult at times. Chicken Salad Chick is certainly not without a little hustle and bustle, but the chain affords its staff much more of a work-life balance that other eateries simply aren't able to match. The restaurant promotes these benefits openly on its website to boot. You'll find that the main perks include shifts that don't last into the late night, easy accommodation towards scheduling, and of course, no business on Sundays. 

Just as flexible scheduling is useful for a part-time job, open availability also works in employees' favor for choosing the hours that suit their lifestyles. On top of that, employees say that supervisors are incredibly cooperative when it comes to assigning them their preferred hours. "Management respects your availability, and while they will ask if you want to pick up extra shifts from time to time, they won't force them on you if you say no," said one current team member on Indeed. One of the reasons Chicken Salad Chick makes for a great work place, according to a former cashier, is "you could work the hours you wanted" (per Indeed). 

Obviously, not every person who gets hired here will have the same experiences. One Indeed poster shared that it wasn't unheard of to stick around for dishes long after other employees clocked out for the evening. So it's fair to say working at Chicken Salad Chick isn't universal.  

Chicken Salad Chick feeds its employees for free

Getting an entree on the house is nothing new when working at a restaurant. Still, can anyone say they wouldn't be psyched over a free lunch? Employees at Chicken Salad Chick will receive a free meal, plus an additional discount on secondary purchases during every shift they work (via Indeed). While it may not be mind-blowing, a perk is still a perk. When the chain's menu shows that customers will routinely spend around $9 for a Classic Carol sandwich, and spend an extra $5 on a side and a drink, well, paying the price of zero is a hard bargain to beat. 

However, being a franchised company means there's bound to be some differences in how employees enjoy the bonus. One thing you'll immediately notice is that the chain isn't super consistent on the perk's conditions. In an Indeed post inquiring about the restaurant's employee benefits, some users replied that they only receive a discount and not a complimentary lunch. One commenter chimed in that you would need to be a higher-ranking employee, such as a team lead, to get anything free of charge. And another poster clarified that in their experience, the perk was limited to specific items and was not offered as a free-for-all across the menu.

Workers adore the friendly regulars

Chicken Salad Chick is a friendly place. Just looking at the yummy menu and upbeat atmosphere seems to put everyone in a good mood, customers included. Encountering a couple of bad eggs is expected in food service, but many employees have raved about the polite clientele who visit the restaurant. Workers adore waiting on kind, friendly people, and these positive interactions have ended up being the highlight of a shift, if not the job as a whole. "Great guests!" raved one former cashier on Indeed. An Alabama employee gushed on Indeed that "all of the customers were super nice and friendly." Even a poorly-rated experience from a shift manager in Florida had to admit that the gracious diners made all the difference, writing on Indeed, "the friendly customers are the best part of the job."

Workers are also appreciative of how conscientious visitors are when the store gets hectic. When there's a lunch or dinner rush (as is to be expected), diners don't stomp their feet or mouth off to the manager about having their order held up. Instead, they're usually quite patient and won't give staff a hard time about it. "There is a fairly large group of regular customers who are very understanding if it is busy and a little slower," noted a current Assistant Manager in Tennessee on Indeed. Showing a little compassion, it turns out, makes everything a little easier and a little brighter when working at Chicken Salad Chick. 

You're not allowed to take customers' tips

Because Chicken Salad Chick goes the extra mile in pleasing its guests, customers might feel compelled to leave a tip when they're particularly happy with the service. Anyone who's ever done their time on a sandwich line can't help feeling a little sympathetic, right? Regardless, the chain has a policy against workers collecting gratuities, and a former line worker confirmed on Indeed that employees have to actively refuse the money. That also applies if the customer pushes them to accept it. "Absolutely NO tips," piped in another former employee on Indeed, who listed this occurrence as a downside on par to the chain's opposition to tattoos and manicures. 

One cashier's experience echoed the above sentiments, although they revealed that their store would allegedly pool the gratuities towards "company parties" meant to include all restaurant staff. However, something fishy was afoot because, as the Indeed post notes, no shindigs would ever materialize. As a result, the worker admitted feeling underappreciated on the job. They argued that receiving extra cash occasionally would go a long way towards getting a much-needed boost in an environment that can be thankless and harsh. "I never got the motivation from coworkers or even managers so a tip would really help once in a while," they explained their 2-star review. 

Wages could definitely be higher

With every perk Chicken Salad Chick promises comes a truth that's always hard to swallow — the low wages. Staff members have complained about the pay in the past, and viewing the chain's Indeed page shows prep cooks, shift managers, and both front- and back-of-house staff all pull in roughly the same amount of money, around $11 to $12 per hour. This amount might be a lot higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (via U.S. Department of Labor), but it falls below similar franchises, like Chick-fil-A and Jersey Mike's. For the sheer amount of manpower that goes into cranking out those chicken salads, surely workers should earn a whole lot more every hour than the dollar equivalent to a Sassy Scotty and a side?

On Comparably, the feedback is (predictably) less-than-stellar on the topic of Chicken Salad Chick's compensatory habits. In addition to raising wages, the employees call on the chain to improve its benefits. "It is difficult to come to work everyday and be told 'thank you for working so hard' and 'you did a great job today' without any actual substance to back up those words," one individual admitted, as well as pointing out that it would be easier to take the company at face-value if its labor pool was "paid more and fairly." Another employee described feeling "overworked and underpaid" without any incentives to encourage them to stay. "There was mention of benefits, but they were never offered."