The newest celebrity to arrive in New York isn't a movie star or a cover model. But he does have a large and loyal following -- at least, his sandwiches do. Oscar Fittipaldi is the owner and operator of the first freestanding Chick-fil-A restaurant in the city.
On Oct. 3, he'll open his doors at 1000 Sixth Ave. for the hungry masses eager for their fix of Atlanta's famous fried-chicken brand. Mr. Fittipaldi anticipates strong demand. He plans to hire 180 employees and offer extended hours (though not past midnight on Saturdays because the store will be closed Sundays, per company policy.) The 51-year-old expects to work 100-hour weeks.
"We're coming to a great place that has completely different dynamics than we've seen anywhere else in the country," he said. "We're going to have to become students of the market to get results."
Mr. Fittipaldi was chosen from hundreds of applicants to be the brand's Manhattan franchisee. (Chick-fil-A hears from roughly 20,000 franchisee applicants each year and selects between 75 and 80.) He says he has the discipline to make it work. Raised outside Buenos Aires, he joined the Argentine Navy at 16 and traveled the world for nearly a decade before settling in the U.S. as a dinner-cruise ship captain.
Five years ago, he opted for dry land and opened a Chick-fil-A franchise in Philadelphia, spending $10,000 upfront and splitting costs 50-50 with the brand thereafter. He's terminating that contract to launch the New York site, which his wife and three daughters will help run on weekend visits from their South Jersey home. Mr. Fittipaldi has moved to Weehawken, N.J.
And special orders? No problem. "I can make the chicken spicy, if you don't mind the wait," he said. "That's what separates us from the rest of the industry."
--Adrianne Pasquarelli is a reporter for Crain's New York Business