Nancy Christman Moves to Minnesota to Open Chick-Fil-A

Chick-Fil-A franchise operator Nancy Christman enjoys her role of building relationships in the community while serving up hospitality and delicious food.
Chick-Fil-A's Nancy Christmas makes sure that Amy Armbrust and her children Colton, 5, and Camryn, 4, enjoy their meal.

Last fall, Maple Grove became home to the first free-standing Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Minnesota and home to franchise operator, Nancy Christman. Christman moved from Atlanta, Georgia to break ground for the restaurant (11820 Fountains Way,) bringing new flavor and a listening ear to the community’s fast food scene. “I have been with Chick-Fil-A for thirteen years,” she says. “This will be my fourth and hopefully last restaurant.”
A franchise opportunity with Chick-Fil-A first appealed to Christman after years with many job transfers .Christman and her husband, Jeff, a pilot for Delta, decided it was time to put down roots when their twins, Jamie and Jon, reached middle school. She liked the emphasis the fast food chain placed on community. “This is not about the money,” she says. “It is really about impacting the lives of people, whether it is our customers or members of our team, in a positive way. Certainly we like to make a profit, but we have an incredible work environment where it is more like family.” When the twins graduated from high school, Jon chose to go to the University of Pennsylvania for business and Jamie traveled to St. Olaf, in Northfield for nursing. According to Nancy, one of the things Jamie missed most was the restaurant, Nancy says. “She’d call me and ask, ‘Mom, when is Chick-Fil-A coming to Minnesota?’ When she came back home we either met her at the airport with a chicken sandwich or that was the first stop we made.”
With the kids away at school, Christman had plenty of opportunity to put energy into her “family” at work. “A lot of my time is getting to know the customers in the dining room,” she says. “Someone could have just lost a job or a loved one, or having the best day they ever had. We respond with care and compassion and understanding. Hopefully we are a part of that day that makes it a little better if it’s not so good, or if it is good to make it even better.” This caring approach extends to the approximately 80 team members prepping and serving the food, of which more than half are teens. Christman makes sure students know that school comes first. “I let them know I am going to be checking in and asking how grades are and how things are going at school.”
The desire to extend compassion and caring into the community prompted Christman to take a new path in life, one with a Minnesota connection that she feels “put heart and meaning to what I do every day.” Last May she completed a six-year program with Luther Seminary in St. Paul to earn a Master’s in Divinity. Much of the coursework was online but Christman did attend two two-week intensives each year, one in January and one in June, initiating her to some of the most challenging and enjoyable weather Minnesota has to offer. “I don’t mind the snow so much and I don’t mind the cold so much,” she says, “but when it is windy it is brutal.”
Christman’s desire to be a caring presence in the community extends to the food they offer, and she tries to locally source as much of the menu as possible. She takes pride in the health conscious items, pointing out that even the signature breaded chicken sandwich is less than 450 calories, but admits that one of her favorites defies any healthy qualities. “Our milkshakes are amazing,” she laughs. “I don’t get them very often but they are really, really good.”
For Christman, the bottom line is caring about the people in her new community. “The people of Maple Grove have been generously welcoming. I have noticed there are a lot of people who have heard of Chick-Fil-A but there are more that have not.  I want to change that. People come into our restaurant hungry, and it’s not only just for food. We try real hard to make a difference for people. If there is even one person I can do that for, it would be huge.”