If you haven’t heard already – Chick-fil-A has arrived in Canada! Double the good news if you’re in Toronto where the first internationally franchised restaurant is located (happy claps!). While Chick-fil-A is known for its original chicken sandwich, top talent in Canada will soon know them for their Leadership Development Program (LDP), specifically aimed at developing new grads’ business and leadership skills. We had the chance to speak with both a recruiter for Chick-fil-A’s LDP and a current program participant who shared their insights on the program, their experiences and some great tips on how to succeed in the recruitment process – Chick it out below.
What is LDP Anyway?
The LDP is a 24-36-month program that’s a job opportunity and a development program to help you grow both personally and professionally. Caleb Nicholson, Principal Talent Lead, International Talent Partner for Chick-fil-A, says that the program “is really an opportunity for individuals to develop their business skills.” One of the main reasons recent grads apply to the LDP is to develop the skills needed to become an owner/operator of their own Chick-fil-A restaurant. However, Caleb says that isn’t the only reason why new grads should consider applying to the program. “If you want to grow your business skill set or if you want to become a better, well-rounded business person, our program is a great way to do so! That’s what we feel we can teach you – the Chick-fil-A way of doing business that will help you be successful, whether you continue to grow with Chick-fil-A or you decide to grow another business.”
As a program participant, you’ll work as either a Grand Opening Supervisor (like Olivia Efford) where you’ll partner with a franchise owner and help them open a restaurant in their local community, or in an Interim Manager role where you’ll act as the General Manager of a Chick-fil-A restaurant while a franchise owner is being selected. Since this is Chick-fil-A’s first international expansion, participants within Canada will likely go into the Grand Opening Supervisor role.
Application Process and Key Qualities
The application process includes several steps to ensure the candidates are the right fit. Once you submit your application, candidates go through an initial 1-hour long video interview. If you make it to the next round, you’ll have a second video interview that will be about 90 minutes long. If you’re successful in this round, you’ll make it to your final in-person interview. “On average the process takes about 90 days to go end to end,” says Caleb.
With such a thorough interview process, we got some insight into what will help you stand out and what skills and qualities a competitive LDP candidate has. Here’s what Caleb had to say:
What experience do you look for in candidates who are applying to become a part of the LDP Program?
“Without a doubt a strong business mindset – from an end-to-end business perspective. An understanding of business financials, talent development and talent management, leadership skills, as well as thinking and understanding a franchise model. In addition to that, some sort of experience in the hospitality industry is valued – it’s not a must-have by any means, but being able to show you understand what hospitality, especially in the restaurant industry looks like, is absolutely a value add, but not necessarily a requirement.”
What skills and qualities does the ideal candidate have?
“Strong leadership and management skills are absolutely ideal qualities. Communication is #1. Be able to talk about who you are, what your goals are in life and being willing to express that in a personable and professional way.
The second one is strong business acumen. Before thinking about applying for the Leadership Development Program, I would encourage individuals to have a solid understanding of business principles – from financial metrics to HR and business operations.
In addition to that, in the hospitality industry, things get hard. So the ability to have grit and work through hard and tough problems.
The last piece we look for is a servant heart and a servant attitude. The ability to want to come and help grow a business in a new country. We’re excited about coming to Canada and we’re excited about finding great talent who wants to continue to grow.”
What are the biggest mistakes candidates make?
“The number one thing is to make sure you talk about why you’re interested in the restaurant industry. Even though this is a Leadership Development Program that has potential tracks for corporate or owner/operator opportunities, you need to have a desire to be in the restaurant business – that’s what we do. So making sure you tie that in is valuable and important.”
Finding Her Calling with Chick-fil-A
Olivia Efford, who moved to Canada from the US when she was 3 years old, is currently participating in the LDP as a Grand Opening Supervisor. Olivia has a family history of Chick-fil-A owner/operators and even spent the majority of her school breaks helping her Dad in Florida at his own Chick-fil-A restaurant. After graduating from the University of Guelph with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Science Honors, she was still uncertain if she wanted to pursue Chick-fil-A full-time. It was during her father’s second grand opening where she met two Grand Opening Supervisors and decided she wanted to learn more. She spoke with Caleb and got a better idea of what the program was really about. “I shared my story and talked to him about always wanting to pursue being an operator and heard that Chick-fil-A was going to be coming to Canada at some point. I love Chick-fil-A and I love Canada, so putting both of those together was really exciting to me. But it was also kind of intimidating. I didn’t know what it was going to look like up here. So he talked to me about the opportunities with LDP, how you get to travel, grow and develop yourself. You also get to see the brand in all different types of geographical locations – in low awareness markets and emerging markets. And for me, I felt like that was a really good opportunity to go out, do this on my own and really invest in myself,” she says.
Olivia’s first assignment after applying and getting into the program was in New York City. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m about to live in New York City’. I felt like I was on this exciting journey that was selected for me, knowing that I wanted to help Chick-fil-A move to Canada and that New York City would be pretty similar to Toronto,” she adds. The Grand Opening Supervisor role is very travel-oriented. Although Olivia is currently living in Toronto to help support the new store opening, she has been to many other locations across the United States in the past year. “My saying is, ‘wherever my suitcases are – that’s where I’m living’,” she jokes.
“One of the things that has been the most beneficial for me is working with the other Grand Opening Supervisors and Operators and having the exposure to so many different people who ultimately have the same goal. As well as seeing how certain Operators run their store and their visions, how they are as a leader, how they interact with their team and their community.”
Olivia’s day to day tasks and her assignments can vary depending on the needs of the business. “Depending on when you get on the ground, you’re there to support the operator, so you’re playing different roles all the time,” she says. Olivia lists various roles and activities you could be working on during the opening process like working with marketing teams, training new people, creating new systems, coaching, mentoring, assessing manpower needs or helping with recruiting. But once the restaurant is in operation, “it’s really all about making sure that grand opening is successful, that we serve great food, have a welcoming environment, that we’re presenting the brand and setting the new Operator up for success,” she comments.
There’s so much more that Olivia is excited to develop, but so far in the program, Chick-fil-A has really helped her strengthen her business skills as well as her emotional intelligence. She’s grown her communication and relationship building skills while working on patience and learning to work with different personalities. “Being around so many different people and seeing what you like in different leaders – you can take those tools and put them in your own tool belt. You’re more self-aware of certain qualities that you see in people and you can work on the qualities you want to see in yourself.”
Olivia offers final pieces of advice for grads who are interested in applying for the Leadership Development Program with Chick-fil-A.
1. “Be open to opportunities. Remember that no two journeys look the same. It’s easy for us to create our own path. It’s important to have goals, but I think everybody’s journey looks different. Even in this program, no two journeys are the same.”
2. “Be humble but confident. Know who you are, what you stand for and what you want, but recognize that every experience will teach you something new.”
3. “There’s a lot of grit involved and pushing through. You never know where you’re going to be or which situation you’re going to be in. It’s tough, but remember – it’s making you stronger and hopefully will all be worth it in the end!”
If you’re ready to establish yourself as a business leader and are looking to dive into the hospitality and restaurant industry, then the LDP is for you. Be a part of Chick-fil-A’s journey into Canada that is packed with travel, learning, experience and a focus on people and community.