Even with a plethora of dining options up and down Ritchie Highway, cars are always lining up and moving around the red-and-white brick building and its large American flag.
“If you provide good service, people will come back,” Chris Schenck casually pointed out while sitting inside his Severna Park Chick-fil-A.
The Annapolis native worked at Chick-fil-A from 1986 to 1992, then spent nearly nine years at Dominoes in Washington, D.C. as a delivery manager, before ultimately returning to Chick-fil-A in 2001.
“I always wanted to own a freestanding unit, something with a drive-thru,” Schenck said. “Speed of service has always been a passion of mine.”
With that in mind, he opened his first store in January 2004, in Laurel.
“We had been looking in Severna Park for a long time,” he said. “The KFC that used to be in this spot closed down while I was at Marley Station Mall. We looked at it, but it wasn’t the right time, so we ended up in Laurel.”
Nearly a decade later, he gave up the Laurel store and opened up the Severna Park Chick-fil-A on October 10, 2013. Six years later, Schenck has a team that has continued to blossom and innovate - turning this into one of the top stores in the chain.
“The people that we have, we have a great team,” Schecnk said. “They really focus on providing quality service, and we encourage feedback from them. We work very hard to make sure that people feel like they’re working with us instead of for us. They know we’re going to take it into consideration and they’ve seen that we’ll make changes based on their input.”
And if you’ve visited the location over the years, you’ve undoubtedly noticed a number of changes. The entire crew at the Severna Park Chick-fil-A aims for continuous improvement in everything they do.
“It’s certainly been an evolution,” remarked Schenck. “When I first started here, we had about 75 employees who were full-time; now we have over 100. With the jobs that we’ve added for delivery drivers, we’re busier in the kitchen, busier at the front counter. Obviously we have people outside taking orders, a cashier in the back, and people in the drive-thru.”
They had so many people in the drive-thru that Schenck has completely remodeled the area from a traditional window to a sliding walk-thru door - creating an experience that is truly unique.
“[The drive-thru space] was designed for four people, and we were putting seven in there,” he explained. “So now everyone is going to have the room to do what they need to do. This was something that they didn't plan on doing further north than about South Carolina. We went and saw some of those stores and immediately said, ‘We want that.’”
As one of the top stores in the chain, the Severna Park Chick-fil-A leads the way with speed of service, transactions and customer satisfaction.
“Our goal is to get them on and off the property within five minutes,” Schenck explained. “Most of the time, we’re right around the three-minute mark from the time they pull onto the lot, place their order, give us their money, and then are pulling away with their food - and that’s pretty ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, the team was part of a handful of locations to offer delivery, another service at which they’ve excelled.
“We’re the No. 1 delivery team - we’re a test for it that started at about four stores and now at 22, with plans to get up to about 60 stores by the end of the year,” he explained. “We do things quite a bit differently and that’s helped us be the No. 1 delivery team.”
Along with delivery, they offer mobile ordering, and now have a mobile dine-in option.
“Each table has a number on it so you can place your order ahead of time or you can just come in, sit down, and order from your table,” Schenck said. “Enter your table number and we’ll bring your entire order out to you.”
Schenck and his team have a strong relationship with schools in the area and regularly do fundraisers with them and a variety of local organizations. These relationships and being a value to the community are what Schenck values the most, and he looks forward to continuing to provide great service both at his store and in the area.
“I’m part of the chamber [of commerce]; I got to church locally; I go to the different fundraisers, and the bull-and-oyster roast. I’m here. I’m not moving anymore,” Schenck said. “This is where I plan to be for 20, 30 more years - as long as I can keep coming into the store, and keep connecting with my team, and connecting with the community.”