Chick-fil-A has cooked up a redesigned website with feature stories, recipes, GIFs, videos and other content as it tries to strengthen the connection the chain has with its fans.
Thursday's launch of the overhauled site is being led by someone who helped spearhead a similar overhaul four years ago at Coca-Cola. Ashley Callahan worked on Coca-Cola's Journey site before she joined Chick-fil-A, the country's largest chicken-focused chain, in 2014.
Now, as Chick-fil-A's digital communications and content strategy manager, Ms. Callahan wants to bring online more of the connection fans feel with Chick-fil-A restaurants.
When Ms. Callahan joined the Atlanta-based chain, millions of people were already visiting its website, often for nutrition, allergen and restaurant information. "How could we make it work harder for us and really serve our customers better," Ms. Callahan said of the site. "We really wanted to make this a digital extension of the restaurant."
The website overhaul comes as Chick-fil-A is parting ways with The Richards Group, its ad agency of 22 years.
A number of details have been reworked. The menu is now programmed to show the proper items for the time of day whenever someone logs on. So if it is before 10:30 a.m., the viewer should see the breakfast menu, while later in the afternoon they could be tempted by treats such as ice cream, cookies and milkshakes. Also, pricing information is now included on the menu. When people return to the site, they will see new stories on the homepage each time they visit.
The chain's famous "Eat Mor Chikin" cow mascots will continue to have a presence. Now, rather than being found in a dedicated section, they will appear as Easter eggs throughout the site.
Perhaps the biggest change is the introduction of "The Chicken Wire," which Ms. Callahan calls an embedded publication that expands on content that was already on the site. Stories, videos, GIFs, infographics and other content focuses on food, hospitality and community.
Chick-fil-A is the latest brand to try to connect with consumers beyond methods such as traditional advertising and social media. Along with Coca-Cola, brands that have beefed up their online storytelling presence include Target and General Mills.
Brands are trying to tell stories to connect directly with customers, including many millennials, who are seeking out companies that they believe are transparent and open. For Chick-fil-A, one area it will continue to mention is its restaurants being closed on Sundays for spiritual reasons.
"On Sundays, the site is going to close in a sort of way," Ms. Callahan said.
When people check out the site on a Sunday, they will see a time lapse video of a Chick-fil-A restaurant going from Saturday night into Sunday morning. Then, the site will showcase one main piece of content meant to help people enjoy the day. This coming Sunday, Chick-fil-A plans to show a feature on creating decorative kids' tables for holiday meals, which was done in partnership with lifestyle expert Kimberly Schlegel Whitman. The following Sunday, Chick-fil-A plans to share a profile on former "Top Chef" contestant and Atlanta restaurateur Kevin Gillespie including the recipe to his "Closed-on-Sunday Chicken Sandwich." On the third Sunday, it plans to introduce the chain's own Sunday comic strip, aptly named "Chicken Strips."
Work on the new version of the site, which works off of a Sitecore CMS platform, began about a year ago. Content for The Chicken Wire is handled by several people internally and a network of freelancers that includes many people with journalism backgrounds, said Ms. Callahan, herself a former TV news reporter.
Stories from customers, which were already shared online, may now be told differently using the skills of writers with reporting backgrounds to make them "a little less first-person, a little more journalism," Ms. Callahan said. She said the chain would focus on more of those stories in 2017.