Chick-Fil-A: Jeanne Hammontree

Jeanne Hammontree
Jeanne Hammontree

Last week, one family gathered in the middle of the Chick-fil-A of South Franklin on Columbia Avenue, exchanging hugs and slaps on the back. When operator Jeanne Hammontree headed over to see about the congratulatory commotion, she learned that the family’s first grandchild was on the way—and the young couple had chosen her restaurant as the place to announce it. Soon after, complimentary milkshakes and blue balloons arrived at the table.

“We just wanted to be part of the experience,” Jeanne said. “We strive for the unexpected, little surprises that allow us to learn our guests’ stories and build memories with them.”

Jeanne runs the Chick-fil-A with her husband of 35 years, Richard Hammontree. The two came from Calhoun, Ga., nearly 10 years ago to open a Chick-fil-A store in Cool Spring Galleria. The entrepreneurs had their own party business before moving to Franklin to become a franchisee owner.

“Working together is what Richard and I love doing, and we also loved everything about the Chick-fil-A brand,” she said. “We came to South Franklin when it opened because we are part of this community. We wanted to be able to reach out to it and say ‘thank you.’”

The restaurant does this in various ways, including hosting several events each year that support Williamson County causes, from recognizing the fire department to holding a night for children with special needs. Since their location’s opening in January 2010, they’ve developed local relationships inside the store that she contributes to the Franklinite friendliness.

“Everyone is so kind. We feel like our store is its own community within Downtown Franklin’s tight-knit one,” she said. “We try to get to know visitors on an individual basis.”

Across the country, Chick-fil-A parking lots stay full with customers who can’t get enough of its chicken sandwiches, waffle fries and breakfast biscuits. There’s always a host of children in the restaurant’s play zone—“I want it clean because my grandchildren play here”—or a group of friends catching up. Jeanne says the restaurant’s popularity is due in part to the customers’ familial experience.

“We really believe that we’re not just in the chicken business, but in the people business,” she said. “Some guests come in nearly every day just for a glass of sweet tea or a cup of coffee. If you’re looking for family, we’ll be it.”

It’s evident from the moment you walk through the restaurant’s doors that its employees do place an emphasis on customer relations. Jeanne says a manager is always on hand to engage in conversation and make a personal connection in a way that only a small-town fast food chain can do.

“We look for people who fit our personality,” Jeanne said. “You can teach a person to work a register, but you can’t teach that.”

Jeanne says that, by default, being in the Downtown Franklin area has bolstered its local support.

“There’s always something going on around here. I think the reason that this community is so close is because everyone cares so much about one another.”

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