CLAY, N.Y. — The operator of the Cicero Chick-fil-A franchised restaurant plans to open a second eatery in Clay next spring.
Jimmer Szatkowski says the new restaurant will go into the former space of the Uno Pizzeria & Grill at 3974 State Route 31 and should open sometime between March and May.
Construction crews recently started tearing down the former Uno building, which has been vacant since the restaurant closed at the Clay site in November 2018.
Szatkowski says the hope is to get construction of a new structure enclosed before the winter weather and finish it up inside over the winter, to be ready for the spring opening.
In terms of a specific timetable for opening, Szatkowski says it will depend on how construction goes but adds, “Certainly, I can’t envision a scenario where it’s later than May.”
Szatkowski opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant at 7916 Brewerton Road in Cicero on Feb. 22, 2018. At the time, it was the chain’s first eatery in upstate New York, and today, it remains the only Chick-fil-A in Central New York. The next-closest restaurants are in the Rochester area.
Szatkowski says he was selected by Chick-fil-A corporate to operate a second restaurant. “If you’ve been an operator for a certain period of time and you’ve been performing at a certain level, you can apply to be considered for a second location,” he says. “It’s still pretty rare to get a second location in the Chick-fil-A world. We were blessed to be selected for that second [eatery] earlier this year.”
Under the Chick-fil-A franchise model, the company chooses the location, buys the property, builds the restaurant, and purchases the equipment.
“They handle all the capital outlay and essentially my LLC owns the right to operate the restaurant. It’s a unique franchise model,” Szatkowski says.
His company is called Made in Medina LLC. It’s named for Medina, a village in Orleans County in Western New York, where he grew up. This is his only active business venture.
Szatkowski says the Cicero restaurant’s revenue has exceeded his and Chick-fil-A’s expectations. He couldn’t provide numbers, but he did say that the restaurant has continued to generate total revenue growth this year despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our catering business has taken a real hit because people aren’t gathering in large gatherings, but in terms of the overall business we’re seeing growth, which is amazing,” Szatkowski says. “We’ve continued to hire throughout the year.”
The handful of people that were working on catering have shifted into other parts of the business. “Our workforce has been largely unchanged throughout the year. We typically have about 100 to 110 people on staff here,” he says.
Szatkowski adds that 40 percent of his staff works full-time and 60 percent works part-time.
The Clay Chick-fil-A restaurant will be about 5,000 square feet, similar to the Cicero eatery, but with a different layout, says Szatkowski. It will be a more rectangular shape, compared to the square shape in Cicero.
Szatkowski expects to hire about 130 employees for the Clay location at the start as it gets up to speed, but says with time, it should settle in at the same number of employees as the Cicero restaurant through natural attrition.
He says the Cicero Chick-fil-A attracts customers from as far away as Utica, Binghamton, Watertown, and Fort Drum because it’s the chain’s only location in the Central New York area between the Pennsylvania border and Canadian border and between Rochester and Albany. “We [also] get people from all over Syracuse, that’s for sure,” he says.
The new Clay eatery will help alleviate some of the “strain” on the Cicero restaurant on its busiest days, says Szatkowski. “Even though our drive-thru is super-fast, people see that line and say ‘Ah, I’ll go some other time,’” he quips.
Before becoming a Chick-fil-A operator, Szatkowski worked as an executive at IBM for 20 years. He worked in supply chain management. He started in the Poughkeepsie area, before spending four years in China, and then the last 10 years in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.
“This business venture was an opportunity for me to return home,” Szatkowski says.
Szatkowski has a degree in math from SUNY Potsdam and an MBA from Clarkson University.
Headquartered in the Atlanta, Georgia area, Chick-fil-A is a family-owned, quick-service restaurant company with more than 2,400 restaurants in 47 states and the District of Columbia. The company reported systemwide sales, from both franchised and company-owned restaurants, of more than $12 billion in 2019, up from $10 billion in 2018.