Full circle: Local Chick-fil-A owner comes home
Franchise on the lookout for good talent
The long wait for waffle fries and Polynesian sauce in Calvert County is almost over. The new Chick-fil-A in Prince Frederick will be operational before the holiday season.
“We are just excited about bringing Chick-fil-A for the first time to Calvert,” said franchisee Todd Smith.
But before the chicken-only restaurant can open, the new owner said he must first fill some positions.
“Off the bat we’re going to be hiring between 85 and 100 — that’s our goal by opening,” Smith said, noting he has availability for all positions full and part time, leadership and non-management.
Smith said he will always be on the lookout for good talent, but promises not to poach from other stores. Between Sept. 28 and by Oct. 4, he said he has completed upwards of 50 interviews for potential “team members,” but made no offers as of yet. The application process is done totally online at CFAPrinceFrederick.com.
Smith said employees are called team members because Chick-fil-A has a team atmosphere and that they are not just an employee or a number.
“Since I do not have a staff, I will be the only one interviewing people. For the next two weeks it will be a matter of just going through applications, going through interviews, then making decisions,” Smith said.
It is not lost on Smith that he shares the same name as rapper and actor LL Cool J.
“Everybody knows who he his. He was named after me,” chuckled the 42-year-old restauranteur who is eight years younger than the famed Todd Smith.
The lesser known Smith began his career with Chick-fil-A in 2009 managing a restaurant in Charleston, S.C., for two and a half years before heading to the corporate office helping with grand openings and stores that did not have owners, navigating through the company’s interim manager program.
Smith was than granted an existing store in a mall in Hurst, Texas, just outside of Fort Worth where he worked for five years, and was there until August of this year. He had to be out of the restaurant in order to sign a contract for the Prince Frederick location.
“I want to come back home,” said Smith, who is originally from Bowie. His wife Mary is from Anne Arundel County and they have family in Calvert. “We knew people in Calvert County wanted Chick-fil-A bad for a long time. So, we’ve been kind of having our eye on this one for a couple of years.”
Smith said his father’s family has been living in southern Prince George’s County since the 1700s and that his greatgreat-grandmother’s house in Croom is on the National Historic Register.
Smith said he and his wife, who also works in the store as the marketing and catering director, did not want to open a franchise in an area where they did not want to live nor want their 5-year-old son to attend school, as they plan to be involved in the local chamber of commerce and engrossed in the community.
Smith admitted over recent years he had been periodically checking out the Facebook page titled “Calvert County needs a Chick-fil-A.”
“Thanks for visiting this page! If anyone has connections to someone who can start a Chick- fil-A in Calvert County, please try to start one!!!” reads the page’s first post Feb. 4, 2011. It eventually garnered 150 followers.
Smith said they had been holding out for specific locations and this one came on target with the 2018 plan.
“We jumped on it,” Smith said, later noting they wanted to be in a place that is “community centric,” not in a “mega metropolitan area.”
While the corporate office has frequently informed The Calvert Recorder, as recent as February, that it hopes to expand in Prince Frederick but does not have any new locations to confirm, Smith said he has known for almost a year that he was chosen over others to receive Calvert’s first store. He does not know how many others he went up against, but he knows it was competitive.
Smith arrived in Calvert in mid-September, establishing residence in Chesapeake Beach, and has been working in a trailer adjacent to the restaurant, which is still under construction and owned by the corporation.
“Chick-fil-A is responsible for completing the build. They will turn the restaurant over to me [on] a turnover date when it actually becomes official as a franchise location,” Smith said, of the new concept store designed for small lots where both the kitchen and dinning area run the length of the restaurant.
Atlanta-based Frontier Construction is building the restaurant, but has employed labor from Southern Maryland.
“There’s probably 50 guys here at all times,” Frontier Construction Superintendent William Virgil said. “Everyone here is local.”
To help Smith, the corporate office sent David Hershberger, a Chick-fil-A grand opening supervisor, one of three to come before and stay through a week or two after the eatery’s opening.
“They will support us with getting the trainers in for the grand opening, they help set up the store and ensure that vendors are set up. They will also make sure the equipment in the restaurant is functioning properly,” Smith said.
Hershberger spent the day recently calling vendors in preparation for opening, but stressed to the Recorder that employment opportunities at the store were still available.
Smith is in tune to what’s going on in the county, with the push for growth against the desire to keep the county’s community feel. He also knows traffic is a concern.
Smith is sympathetic to the concerns of everyone and said while it is nice being near Washington, “it’s also nice to be a little bit smaller and a little more quiet outside of the Beltway, not having as much traffic and sitting in the traffic.”
The week leading up to the opening there will be activities, to include a contest to receive free Chick-fil-A food for a year, a DJ and other events. Only those living within a certain radius around the store will be eligible for the contest.
Smith does not have an exact date for the opening, as corporate Chick-fil-A determines the date, as dictated by the construction timeline.
Less than 30 days ago, he erected his own Facebook page, “Chick-fil-A Prince Frederick,” that details the store’s progress, opportunities for employment, construction pictures and upcoming events. The page already has more than 200 followers. Smith plans to announce the opening date there.
“Progress being made on our new restaurant. Tile, interior walls, brick, and landscaping going in recently. We can’t wait to get open and start serving our community,” an Oct. 7 post reads, demonstrating Smith’s enthusiasm for his new store.
And while he is open to opening another franchise down the road, for now he is content at his new locale in his new county, noting what makes Chickfil-A different from other fast food chains is “local ownership — we’re all living in the community we serve.”
Franchise owner Todd Smith at Calvert County’s first Chick-fil-A set to open before the holidays.