Lee Branch Zaxby’s top in nation

Published 3:56 pm Friday, June 17, 2011

Jason Alexander, general manager of the Lee Branch Zaxby's since its 2007 opening, led the store to a Golden Zeggy award, the company's equivalent of store of the year honors. (Reporter photo/Jon Goering)

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY – A North Shelby Zaxby’s was recently honored with a Golden Zeggy award.

Don’t laugh.

In the world of Zaxby’s, Golden Zeggys are serious business, the company’s equivalent of being named store of the year.

Out of 525 Zaxby’s locations in 12 states, the Zaxby’s located in the Lee Branch shopping center, off U.S. 280 at 110 Doug Baker Blvd., received one of two Golden Zeggys awarded last month at the company’s annual conference.

“That’s a pretty big deal for us,” said Russell Pate, co-owner of Chicken Scratch Holdings, operators of five Zaxby’s in Shelby County.

Operational excellence is based on a combination of inspection, mystery shopper and drive-through speed of service scores, Pate said.

The other Golden Zeggy, awarded for total sales, went to a Georgia location.

In addition to the Golden Zeggy, the Lee Branch Zaxby’s received one of four Zeggy awards. The store was honored for standards execution, meaning it followed franchise policies in areas such as cleanliness, maintenance and guest service.

“It gives you a good sense of pride in your store,” said Jason Alexander, the store’s general manager since its 2007 opening.

Three of the store’s five assistant managers have worked with Alexander since the opening.

“We have great continuity – a lot of good people who have been here with us through it all,” said Alexander, an Alabaster resident and 1999 graduate of Thompson High School. “It’s an accumulation of the years and the hours we’ve all put in together.”

For Chicken Scratch Holdings, the good news didn’t end in North Shelby. The Calera Zaxby’s, located at 102 Limestone Parkway, also received a Zeggy Award for guest service.

Calera’s award was based on scores from mystery shoppers, who visited the store up to two times a month. For the year, the store averaged a score of 99.

All told, three of the six national awards were given to Shelby County locations.

“We’re very blessed by all of this,” said Pate, a 1998 graduate of Chelsea High School.

Pate and his business partner, Courtney Mason, who practiced law in Shelby County for more than 30 years, opened the first of five Shelby County Zaxby’s in 2004.

The Pelham store, at 3437 Pelham Parkway, was also the first Zaxby’s location in the Greater Birmingham area, Pate said.

Other Zaxby’s within the county are located in Hoover at 2636 Valleydale Road, which opened in 2006, and a second North Shelby location at 4629 U.S. 280 S., which opened in 2008.

The Calera location, opened in 2009, was a prime spot for the company, Pate said, noting the company seeks communities in which it can become heavily involved. Jeremy Boone is the store’s general manager.

“They’ve raised thousands of dollars for the elementary, middle and high schools through fundraisers. They’ve donated a lot of food to different organizations and events. That’s really the premise for what Zaxby’s tries to do when they come to a good community like that.”

It’s all about hiring the right people, Pate said.

“We always say we’re in the people business, not the chicken or restaurant business,” he said. “I wholeheartedly attribute it to hiring the right people. They like their jobs, feel like they’re part of the team and enjoy coming to work.

“Everything works when people are happy at work,” Pate added.