Food & Drink

Chicken Salad Chick headed for Bradenton-Sarasota area

MANATEE -- A Southern-style fast-casual restaurant focused on delivering "the perfect chicken salad" for everyone is on its way to the Bradenton-Sarasota area.

Chicken Salad Chick, an Auburn, Ala.,-based chain, will open a store in the Shoppes of Paradise Bay at 75th Street West and Cortez Road.

Franchisees Cody Toole and Elizabeth Toole leased an approximately 3,200-square-foot spot in the plaza for five years with a five-year option from property owners Benderson Development Co., according to Manatee County records.

Anchor tenants of the plaza include Marshalls and Winn-Dixie. Chicken Salad Chick is nestled between telecommunications provider Sprint and Antony V's liquor store in the middle of the plaza. Shoppes of Paradise Bay also has four other restaurants; Bonefish Grill, China Express, First Watch and Fratello's.

Elizabeth Toole said the location at 75th and Cortez attracted her and Cody, both 25, for one main reason.

"We loved it because it's one of the main arteries out to the beaches," Elizabeth Toole said. "So it will be really easy for people to pick up chicken salad and go to the beach for the day."

According to the Chicken Salad Chick website, the concept started in the founders' kitchen. Stacy Brown was on her own "personal quest to find the perfect chicken salad." She realized the perfect recipe is different for everyone and she began crafting different chicken salad recipes in her kitchen. Soon enough she and her husband, Kevin, founded the Chicken Salad Chick Co.

Elizabeth Toole said Kevin Brown was from her hometown in Alabama and through word of mouth, she heard good things about the concept of the company. After she and Cody Toole graduated from Auburn University, she began working for the company as a corporate trainer. She traveled to different franchise locations throughout the southeast United States and said she "fell in love" with her work. Chicken Salad Chick has locations in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina,

Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida, with a location planned in Fort Worth, Texas, coming soon.

Working as a corporate trainer for the company led her and her husband, who is originally from the area, to move to Bradenton.

"We're going to see how well it works down here," she said. "It's a very cliche southern restaurant; it's cute and girly."

According to the Chicken Salad Chick website, the "secret recipe" is made up of "a lotta chicken, barely enough mayonnaise to mention, 1/2 cup of everything your Mama taught you in the kitchen, 1 cup of love for the people you are serving and a dash of Southern style."

The Tooles have Chicken Salad Chick rights to all of Manatee and Sarasota counties. After the Bradenton location gets off the ground, they hope to open at least two others; one in Sarasota and one in the North Port-Venice area.

The Bradenton Chicken Salad Chick menu will be the same as the menu found at the Chicken Salad Chick in Tampa, including sandwiches other than chicken salad, side items, soup and desserts. Construction on the Bradenton location will start in the next couple of weeks, Elizabeth Toole said, and she estimates investing between $450,000 and $500,000 in the first location.

Recently she posted the assistant manager position for hire on LinkedIn. After the assistant manager is hired and the construction is moving along, the Tooles will be looking for about 40 team members, all age 18 and older, to work in the 100-seat restaurant. Chicken Salad Chick offers dine-in and carry out services as well as catering. The Tooles hope to offer delivery for individual orders eventually and will have a private dining room available for rent.

Those interested in working at Chicken Salad Chick can email resumes to The Tooles hope to open by the end of June or in early July.

Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter@jayohday.