Marketing Director (Chick-fil-A) - Rachel Barnes

 "I think people know that we care about them, and we really do. We want to serve our guests and the community, and that is our biggest goal."

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and what do you do?

I grew up in Cary, NC, and graduated from NC State University in 2012 with a degree in Business and a concentration in Marketing. Since September 2012, I have been the Marketing Director at Chick-fil-A in Raleigh, NC. 


The operator that I work for owns two Chick-fil-A stores. Typically an owner/operator will only be able to open a second store if the first is doing really well; reaching sales goals and making a certain profit. The two stores are usually within 8 miles of each other so that the operator stays involved. Every operator hires a marketing director once they are making a certain profit. We have a general manager at each store, two marketing directors, and an operations manager. Our operations manager is over both general managers and is second in command to the operator. We also have an HR director and training director. All of these individuals make up the leadership team and meet weekly in the morning. As the lead marketing director, I work with my co-marketing director, and we rotate between the Falls Village and Capital Crossing stores. We will also work from an office between our two stores, from an office in the back of the Chick-fil-A store, or from coffee shops in the area.

What does a typical day look like for a Chick-fil-A marketing director?

Everyday is so different, and that is what I love about it. I typically come in around 9 am and check my email first thing in the morning. We get donation requests, inquiries for the cow mascot, and partnership requests for fundraiser events like a golf tournament or race. After I respond to emails, I am usually working on the logistics of an upcoming event and communicating with our team about the operation. For instance, we are currently partnering with a local high school and sponsoring their first home football game. The whole student section will be sporting our bright blue neon shirts with their school name on the front and Chick-fil-A on the back. I am working on the design this morning, and we will be selling the shirts in store. 

Between 11:30 and 1:30, I always try to be in the store to interact with our team and guests. I stand as support during our busiest time of the day. I answer any questions from our team members about current promotions and serve our guests by refreshing beverages and making conversation. I work to get to know our customers and build relationships with them. I love that that is part of my job, and it makes the workday go by quickly.

 Fitting over 100 balloons in the catering van on Cow Appreciation Day

Fitting over 100 balloons in the catering van on Cow Appreciation Day

In the afternoons, I am usually planning for the next month and coordinating details of an event. We partner with schools in the area and host spirit nights, so we are gearing up for those to start with the new school year. Students and their families can come in on a designated night, and we give 20% of the profit back to the school. Beforehand, I will bring our cow mascot to the school carpool as a reminder for the event. The kids think that he’s a celebrity, and parents are reminded that they should go eat at Chick-fil-A that night.

Every other Tuesday night, we do a themed family night and our latest event was pajama night. Our big cow dressed up in his pajama costume, kids decorated pillowcases that we provided and had their face painted. For that event we served a chicken and waffle sample with maple syrup, which is not something we sell. I make sure that I am there for those events, so I usually work one night during the week. My schedule varies everyday, but our operator is very  passionate about our community. We do a great job with being involved in the community and I am usually very busy with all of the events that we host.

What other events do you prepare for throughout the year?

I am currently in the middle of planning for our father-son camp out in September. For that event, we block off our parking lot, and our guests will camp out at Chick-fil-A for the night, with tents and air mattresses. We have some inflatables for the kids and have a campfire with s’mores. That is one of our biggest events, and we have a blast! It’s really neat to see relationships between the parents and their children grow. It is super sweet to host an event like daddy-daughter date night and to witness conversations that may not usually happen. I love planning events that bring the family together and our hope is that Chick-fil-A can play a part in making family memories.

 The team sporting mustaches for a promotional event -  Mustache Milkshake Monday.  

The team sporting mustaches for a promotional event - Mustache Milkshake Monday. 

Our biggest event of the year, which takes up most of my planning time, is Ella’s Race. We host a race to raise money for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation in memory of an 8 year old girl from the community. This march will be our 6th race, and it’s a huge event. We had about 1,300 runners run with families supporting them this past year and although I have multiple members working on this event, it ultimately comes down to me to pull it together.

Tell us a little about how you got this position. Did you always know this is what you wanted to do?

I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do after graduation. The company that I was interning with at the time offered me a full time social media/marketing position. I had enjoyed my time there and accepted the offer. I was sitting at a desk for almost the entire workday, creating ads. My coworkers were really great and it was a neat atmosphere, but it was tough sitting at a desk all day. One of my friends had been interning in the HR department at Chick-fil-A. She found out that there was an opening for a marketing director and passed the information along to me. I was restless in my current position and really wanted something different. They were at the end of interviewing potential candidates, and I thought that I probably wouldn’t get an offer. I was the last person that they interviewed, and when they offered me the position, I was beyond excited for the opportunity.

I love working for Chick-fil-A and all that the company represents - it’s much more than a chicken sandwich and a quick service restaurant. I have the opportunity to create relationships with our guests and our team members. I think the reason why Chick-fil-A is so successful is that we give a lot and we are so involved in the community. People know they will be greeted with a smile, and they know they will be served well. I think people know that we care about them, and we really do. We want to serve our guests and the community, and that is our biggest goal. The operator understands that that is my heart, and after being here for 4 years, he trusts me to build our events and promotions through that desire.

what, if anything, helped prepare you for this role?

I had done various internships throughout college in marketing, but I feel like most of this role was learned on the job. I truly feel that I was meant for this position because it plays to so many of my strengths. One major event that helped me prepare for the position, believe it or not, was planning my own wedding. This job is very detail oriented, and planning a wedding made me realize the importance of all the details and how much I enjoy putting all the pieces together. That was a huge help having done that before and gave me confidence in my ability to pull off an event.

 Rachel spends her time throughout the workday, in the community, at both store locations, and in the office between the two stores.

Rachel spends her time throughout the workday, in the community, at both store locations, and in the office between the two stores.

What other qualities do you think someone would need to have to be successful at this role?

In this role, you really have to be driven and very self-motivated. You need to be very decisive and to be able to tell people what needs to be done in a kind way. It is certainly a job that you can improve at over time, but being detail-oriented and organized is important. The first year, I messed up a lot, and I just had to give myself grace during that time. I knew that I’d improve and get to know the team and our guests better over time, plan for events better, and understand Chick-fil-A marketing better. I just needed to give myself a lot of grace that first year to mess up.

Our operator invests a lot into our leadership team. He really invests in growing us as leaders and not just for Chick-fil-A, but for the long-term. Someone in this position could work towards an owner/operator role or a position in a corporate office. You can learn a lot about customer service from a company that really does it well. In September, I will be celebrating 4 years at Chick-fil-A. I still feel challenged and am still growing professionally and personally.

What kind of advice would you give to students trying to start their career?

Don’t be afraid to take a job even though it may not be your dream job. That was one thing that I was so hung up on. I kept thinking, "This is forever, and I can’t make a mistake; this is such a big deal." Obviously, you want to be committed to a position, but I think you should remember that every job you take will help you in some way. My first job outside of college taught me that it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the following year, but was instead a stepping stone to what I did want to do. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and try something out. You will learn something with every experience. That is something graduates need to hear. It’s okay to fail and to make a mistake - learn from it, and move on.


                 FOllow on Instagram: @mychickfila  & Twitter: @mychickfila