Latest Perfect Pitch News
Oct 13, 2021
The Perfect Pitch, which tasks five up-and-coming entrepreneurs with pitching their concepts to Summit attendees and an advisory panel in hopes of securing first place and a financial reward, came with a side of drama this year. Chick N Max CEO Maxwell Sheets (left) and COO Bob Peterson answer questions during about the concept during the 2021 Perfecte Pitch. Oct. 13, 2021 The Perfect Pitch is always one of the most exciting sessions during the Fast Casual Executive Summit , and this year's contest in Charlotte didn't disappoint. In fact, the contest, which tasks five up-and-coming entrepreneurs with pitching their concepts to Summit attendees and an advisory panel in hopes of securing first place and a financial reward, came with a side of drama. After hearing pitches from each brand on Oct. 5, the audience chose Asian John's as the winner followed by Wichita-based Chick N Max as a close second. Unfortunately, after the contest ended, we learned that Asian John's didn't yet have a location in operation, which was a condition of participation. Instead, Founder John Lee Maikke has been involved in Hae Woon Da, an Asian restaurant located at 5805 Buford Hwy NE in Doraville, Georgia. Although he said he was planning to transform it into the first official Asian John's and compete with Panda Express, the address listed on AsianJohns.com still belongs to Hae Woon Da and lacked Asian John's branding. Therefore, FastCasual had to reevaluate the winning brand. Although Maikke won over many audience members with his confident personality and catchy slogan, "There's a new John in town," we wouldn't overlook the qualifying rules to the contest. Therefore, Chick N Max was the official winner of the 2021 Perfect Pitch. The chain will receive the $3,500 prize as well as free entry into next year's event. For our part, we understand the importance of vetting all candidates before they give their pitches and can assure our readers and attendees that we will be aligned with the nomination process in the future. Although we believe that Asian John's likely has a bright future, we felt compelled to go with Chick N Max, who got the second-most number of votes. Clearly, the audience saw the blood, sweat and tears that Chick N Max CEO Max Sheets and his team have put in over the past four years to get their concept off the ground. We, as well as the advisory panel and many audience members, were also impressed that in less than four years Chick N Max has grown to three locations and has nailed down its operational procedures so well that it's now rolling out a franchising program. What's Chick N Max all about? Launched as a trailer at farmer's markets before opening its first location in 2018, the company has three stores, a robust catering program and recently added drive-thrus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Part of the reason why I opened three stores in the first year was to figure out the brand and perfect it," said CEO Max Sheets. "I wouldn't recommend that to anyone, but what we found is we'll never build another one without a drive-thru, particularly in the current environment." What sets Chick N Max apart from its competition is the use of almond wood to smoke the signature chicken and its proprietary spice rubs and sauces. "We really use the almond wood as an ingredient," Sheets said. Chicken tenders are cut from the best part of the chicken, making them moist and tender. All of the food comes out of the kitchen in under four minutes. Although the company is launching its franchising program, Sheets understands that success depends on protecting the brand and is hoping to attract seasoned operators. While it could ostensibly sign up hundreds of franchisees, the executive team recognizes it's usually a core group that maintains brand integrity. "We've got to take care of our franchisees, not just sign up a bunch of them," said Sheets, who has three deals in the works, which would double the size of the company in 2022. "Brands are built with and for people." The company's AUV sits at nearly $1 million with checks averaging over $10 per person. It has also posted seven consecutive quarters of positive sales growth with sales up 52% over 2019. Zack Oates, owner of Ovation and one of the advisory panelists, said Chick N Max deserved to win because it has an incredible team, great branding and stellar operations. "Also, just watching a video of their smoked and fried chicken got me hungry right after breakfast," he said. "So that's saying something." Oates, along with Chad Cohen, principal of Strategic Operations Group of CapitalSpring, and Chad Coulter, founder and CEO of last year's winner, Biscuit Belly, quizzed each contestant about their brands after watching their pitches. Perfect Pitch nominations came from around the world, and the editorial board at FastCasual selected the five brands to make their pitches at the Summit. Besides Chick N Max and Asian John's, the other finalists included iniBurger in Pleasanton, California; Magic City Hoagies in Minot, North Dakota, and Pasta78 in Chandler, Arizona. Mandy Detwiler contributed to this story.