At present, there is only one Chick-fil-A for every 220,000 people in South Florida. For anyone even remotely familiar with the Chick-fil-A brand and its customer loyalty and enthusiasm, there’s just not enough chicken to go around.
“Every time we open a new location, there are lines around the block,” explains Jenn Allstun, senior principal design lead of restaurant development. “There’s so much opportunity for growth because we don’t have a massive presence there yet, and I just love the challenge.”
Allstun, whose custom work for Chick-fil-A has been previously covered by American Builders Quarterly, may not presently be engaged in the rehab and rebuild of a historical building, but that doesn’t mean the work doesn’t require a personal touch for each-and-every new build.
The Perfect Puzzle
The design lead says the scarcity of real estate in markets such as South Florida, where geographical constraints limit available space, and more downtown urban markets like Atlanta that boast far more locations narrow down the possibility of new sites. Transforming a large volume of builds into uniquely customized projects is her preferred type of work, and she excels at it.
“In markets like Atlanta, we have the opportunity to build a two-or-three story Chick-fil-A in a downtown location. In Miami, every single project is this amazing puzzle I get to work on with the development team,” she says. “I used to beg for a two-acre site, then it went down to an acre-and-a-half. Now, I tell them I don’t care if it’s a triangle; give it to me and let me play with the design and see if we can make something great.”
Allstun’s six years at Chick-fil-A have been bolstered by previous designs she completed for brands like Starbucks and Smashburger. In her first year at the Starbuck’s Latin American office, which had been relocated to Florida, the team opened 100 new locations just in the state of Florida. At Smashburger, Allstun grew the company’s portfolio from 150 to 450 locations by the time she left in 2016.
After handling massive projects for first-rate hospitality and dining brands, coming to Chick-fil-A was an easy decision . “What drew me to Chick-fil-A was its unparalleled commitment to their customer service and its strong value-driven culture,” she explains. “The opportunity to be part of a team that prioritizes not only delivering exceptional products but just fostering that positive impact in the community really resonated with me.”
The company’s reinvestment in its local communities is well-known: Chick-fil-A has donated more than 15 million meals to serve those in need, invested over $136 million in scholarships for its team members, and awarded more than $12 million to 171 organizations through its True Inspiration Awards and grants.
Delivering for All Guests
Allstun also has the opportunity to help the company embrace new ideas that can enhance an already sterling reputation for customer service. “What my job is really about is elevating the customer experience,” she says. “My primary focus is on optimizing building design focusing on guest services.”
Her attention to detail doesn’t go unnoticed. “We have worked with Chick-fil-A for many years, through many stages of growth and design variations. Jenn’s focus on incorporating modern innovation while keeping the foundation of Chick-fil-A’s brand is impeccable,” says Todd Willis, owner of Clayton Signs Inc. “She not only envisions a flawless design, but also curates how customers, suppliers, and partners experience Chick-fil-A locations.”
Take third-party delivery drivers as an example. To many (if not most) dining establishments, third-party drivers are not seen as an integral component of the constantly evolving technological landscape in the fast-casual dining industry. It’s quite the opposite at Chick-fil-A, and it’s immediately evident by just the way Allstun talks about delivery drivers.
“We consider our third-party delivery drivers our guests, and we’ve tried to figure out how to design spaces that make them feel welcome and appreciated,” Allstun says, matter-of-factly. Although it might seem small, having a cozy waiting area with a coffee machine and all the necessary comforts really highlights how the little things can make a big difference in creating a welcoming atmosphere, she adds.
Some things are all small, while others are significant. Allstun contemplates the individual who played a pivotal role in introducing her to the world of design: her late father. Initially, she pursued a degree in accounting in college due to her proficiency in it, but she lacked passion for the subject. Surprisingly, her father, a long-time employee of Western Electric, offered an unusual piece of advice.
“He told me he thought I should be an interior designer because I had painted every room in our house, had picked out all of our furniture, and hung our shelves,” Allstun remembers. Her father drove his daughter to every school with an interior design program in the state of Colorado.
And though her father hasn’t seen Allstun’s latest success with Chick-fil-A, the design lead says that whatever company she was working for, he was suddenly their biggest fan, cheering his daughter on any way he could. That heart and care clearly got passed along to his daughter, and now as a mother herself, she is setting an amazing example of how much one person can accomplish when they align with the right organization.