For Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos, Friday’s festivities in Bartow County were truly groundbreaking — both physically and symbolically.
“This is an unexpected opportunity,” he said at the site of what will one day be Chick-fil-A Supply, LLC’s first distribution center off Cass-White Road. “You don’t expect to begin to outgrow your industry’s distribution or supply chain system, but that’s the challenge that Chick-fil-A has, because in many cases, we’re growing so quickly, we’re going faster than the industry can support.”
The fast food juggernaut — which saw its sales last year increase by 16.7% — formally announced plans to open the first-of-its-kind distribution center in April. Bartow County documents indicate Chick-fil-A D2 services, LLC paid roughly $4 million for the approximately 50-acre site, which is nestled in-between the Asta Door Corp. facility and the local KOA Campgrounds site.
After 51 years of consecutive sales growth, Chick-fil-A Supply Chain/Distribution Executive Director Paul Trotti said consumer demand has grown so large — and so fast — that the Georgia-based company had to pursue non-traditional solutions to its supply chain and logistics issues.
“That growth, on top of double-digit growth year over year, has continued to help grow the brand to be over $10 billion in 2018,” he said. “Now, with this exceptional growth there comes some challenges as well as some blessings … as the demand has grown, so has the complexities of delivering food and supplies in time to meet this demand.”
Trotti said work on the project began last October. He said operations are expected to begin in July at the 265,150-square foot spec building directly across the road while construction on the full-scale distribution center continues.
“We started first by hiring a top-notch, first-class team of experts from across the nation, and over the past few months, that team has come together to bring this idea of Chick-fil-A Supply to reality,” he said. “In the next month, at our pilot facility right across the street behind you, we will ship our first case to Glenn [Jordan] and his team at Cherokee Place, and then roughly a year from today, we’ll have the opportunity right on the ground we’re standing on to begin operations for our first full-scale distribution center.”
Governer Brian Kemp was among the many elected officials making an appearance at Friday morning’s event.
“I’m very appreciative of Chick-fil-A for choosing to do this in Georgia, right here in Cartersville, Bartow County,” he said. “I don’t think you could have picked a better community to be in — it’s such a forward-thinking community, great quality of life, great people, obviously a great business environment and I know the locals put a lot into this deal as the State did.”
He said that the State’s economic development ambitions closely mirror Chick-fil-A’s corporate goals, further praising the company for thinking outside the box when it came to logistics solutions.
“This is an unusual step for the company,” he said. “I think their commitment to moving the needle and trying to come up with something new when it comes to supply chains says a lot about the company. It’s not something that they’re just doing on a whim, it’s been well thought out and they’ve got the best people in the world that are helping them with this.”
Trotti introduced Matt Rumsey, the general manager of the distribution center, as the “first employee” of Chick-fil-A Supply.
“When we’re up and running here in Cartersville, we’ll have up to 300 new team members,” Rumsey said. “We actually have 12 of those people already here, standing with us today. That includes the warehouse team members, the drivers and the support staff that goes along with all of those tasks we’re going to have to do. They come from some of the industry’s leading brands, and as a group, bring almost a century of distribution experience to this organization.”
Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor said the distribution center is a significant development for the local community for numerous reasons.
“The 300 jobs is really important, it adds more vibrancy to our community,” he said. “But what’s really more important is to have this Chick-fil-A name as you come through Bartow County and see that Chick-fil-A made this big investment in our community.”
Bartow County Tax Commissioner Steve Stewart said he was likewise thrilled about the new distribution center — although, at this point, he had no hard data on what Chick-fil-A’s full economic impact on the community may be.
“I haven’t heard the numbers yet, but we’re excited about having them,” he said. “It’s going to be good for the tax base, no doubt about it, plus the jobs it’s bringing, as well.”
Chick-fil-A Chairman and CEO Dan Cathy was also on hand at the event. He brought up recent data from a National Restaurant News analysis, which listed the company as the nation’s third largest fast food chain in terms of sales.
“We have in front of us McDonald’s and Starbucks, but it’s not our goal to try to be the biggest, but we have tried to be the best,” he said. “And when you’re the best, the best way to get bigger is to get better, as my dad would teach us.”
He said he couldn’t let the morning “slip away” without acknowledging the chain’s religious roots.
“Our corporate purpose is to glorify God, not anyone else, not anything else than Him alone,” he said, “if we fail to acknowledge Him, then we’ve missed the opportunity for him to direct our paths.”
As for the distribution center itself, Trotti told The Daily Tribune News in April that the facility would likely top out at about 200,000 square feet.
Other details on the size of Chick-fil-A’s economic investment in Bartow County, however, remain scarce.
Chick-fil-A media representatives did not respond to questions from The Daily Tribune News concerning the tentative project budget — or whether the company has received any State development incentives to facilitate construction of the distribution center — by press time.
What has been publicized is that the company will likely receive financial assistance on the local level. In April, the Development Authority of Bartow County authorized the issuance of up to $45 million in bonds for Chick-fil-A to complete the project.
Tassopoulos said the distribution center is a business move that company founder S. Truett Cathy would be proud of.
“It’s an entrepreneurial step, and I think Truett would be very pleased with that,” he said. “Truett was an investor, and when I say he’s an investor, often your mind goes to dollars and cents. But the reality is, Truett was an investor in people and he was an investor in communities. When I think about the Chick-fil-A Supply team that’s here, I think you hopefully feel the investment Chick-fil-A’s making in you, and we know you’re making an investment in Chick-fil-A by being a part of the Chick-fil-A Supply team.”
Taylor said it’s not surprising that Chick-fil-A is growing “leaps and bounds” all over the country.
“I’ve never had a bad Chick-fil-A experience, ever,” he said. “The clean restrooms, the management, the staff, the food, of course. Everything about this company, they’re forward-thinking.”
Gov. Kemp echoed those sentiments.
“You never walk into Chick-fil-A and the ice cream machine doesn’t work,” he said. “It’s those little important things that really matter … people like what they’re getting at Chick-fil-A and they want what they’re getting to be the best every single time they get it, as well as their customer service, and I like that philosophy.”
Kemp said he fully expects Chick-fil-A Supply to be a smashing success that “may teach a few other folks some things down the line” about logistics and supply chain operations.
Seeing nationally and internationally-known brands making such large-scale investments in Georgia certainly brings a smile to Kemp’s face.
“I think it continues to build our brand in Georgia that we have great companies like Chick-fil-A that are expanding here,” he said. “That makes it a lot easier for us to sell our State, and we can talk about great companies like Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines and other people that are doing business here.”
Still, Kemp remained mum on potential developments the State may be eying for Bartow County and the rest of the northern I-75 corridor.
“Really it depends on the site and what the local development community and the local community’s doing,” he said. “That’s what a lot of these folks, before they get to us, they already have sites identified, and I think that’s very important for the future of our State and that’s something that we’re kind of working on right now.”
For Taylor, Chick-fil-A’s investment off Cass-White Road represents yet another example of the local and State economic development departments working together to bring large-scale projects to the community.
“The State partners have been incredible to Bartow County over the last few years,” he said. “If they can build on what they’ve done in the last few years, it’s going to be a great economy in the State of Georgia for many years to come.”