Restaurants are more than just places to eat. Cornerstones of the community, they often embody the spirit of the places and people around them. Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand does just that. Nestled among a bevy of fast food restaurants along Moreland Avenue, Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand captures the essence of the eclectic east Atlanta neighborhood in which it is located. The brainchild of veteran restaurateur Delia Champion, Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand doesn’t take itself too seriously, much like the eccentric Little Five Points area just a few miles away.
How It Began
Well known among Atlanta’s restaurant community, Delia Champion made a name for herself when she opened the Flying Biscuit in the city’s Candler Park neighborhood nearly 20 years ago. The restaurant became one of Atlanta’s premier dining spots, developing a loyal local customer base and attracting out-of-towners with its down home southern style biscuits and apple butter.
A few years ago, Champion sold the Flying Biscuit to pursue something she was deeply passionate about: sausage. “I’ve always loved sausage. I grew up eating sausage and making sausage in the kitchen. It was almost like a lost art. I sold the Flying Biscuit and I had some time to think about what I wanted to do as I got old and gray. I thought that it would be fun to create a restaurant that had fewer moving pieces than a full service restaurant. I wanted to do just one thing, something I was really passionate about, and do that one thing well”, said Champion.
Champion had already had some success with sausage, selling it at local Kroger stores under the Southerland Farms brand. However, the experienced restaurateur admits that she was skeptical at first, especially considering that 90% of all new restaurants fail. To overcome her apprehensions, Champion asked friends and family for their opinions about the menu. Hosting a series of dinner parties, Champion served guests an array of creative sausage dishes. Many items on the restaurant’s menu (and their offbeat names) came from ideas culled from partygoers.
When choosing a location for her new venture, Champion thought about where the locals already gathered. Located on Moreland Avenue, the Fish Supreme had been an Atlanta favorite for more than 30 years. Champion liked the idea of having a built-in customer base, so when the Fish Supreme closed, she quickly signed a lease on the tiny building. In addition to the building, Champion also acquired what she believes to be one of her most valuable assets, an outgoing and energetic woman named Laketha who had worked at the Fish Supreme for more than 12 years.
With a location and employees like Laketha by her side, Champion set out to recreate her success at the Flying Biscuit, vowing to make smarter choices than those she made when she was a budding restaurateur. “The first restaurant you open is kind of like your first child. All those moments are so magical. You don’t remember the days that went perfectly but you sure do remember the days that you stumbled and your challenges to fix it”, she said.
Reflecting on her first days at the Flying Biscuit, Champion recalls the struggles she faced, including having to shut down after a few hours every day for the first week because she ran out of biscuits. “When I started the Flying Biscuit I had no idea what I was doing. I hardly do now but then I really didn’t. The difference is now I know that I have a long way to go every single day to be as good as I can be and every meal as great as it can be. I think I did a better job opening this one honestly by just anticipating volume. I was able to put enough employees in place so I could recover faster by going to pick up what we needed almost every four hours”, she stated.
The menu at Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand is truly a reflection of the community, which Champion says is focused on a healthy and environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Although her operational costs are higher, Champion made a conscious decision to offer only locally-sourced chicken because it is what she and her customers want to eat. “I made a choice that I wouldn’t have the standard in the restaurant industry for cost structure. For example, my food cost is higher because I chose to source my chicken differently. Even though I’m making it, it’s still higher. In the restaurant industry, a good model to follow is 30% food and 30% labor. I don’t get to follow that model here. My food and paper are very high, even down to the containers that I purchase because they are compostable, not just recyclable but compostable”, she reported.
Casual and fun, every item on the menu at Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand is dripping with personality. With names like the Hot Mess, Sleazy Cheesy, and Mother Clucker, every dish features sausage in either link or patty form and fresh ingredients like homemade sauerkraut and Wild Heaven Cheese Sauce, made with beer from a local brewery.
One of the most unique and popular items on Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand’s menu is the Double D Slider, a chicken sausage patty and cherry cream cheese sandwiched between two grilled Krispy Kreme donuts, another local favorite. “Our busiest window of time hour on hour is 1 o’clock in the morning through 3 o’clock in the morning every weekend. The Double D Slider is made for those late night drunken extravaganzas. The idea was a little bit like French toast, something sweet and something savory with the sausage”, Champion said.
In addition to slingers (link sausage on a hoagie bun) and sliders, Champion also added a salad to the menu. Like all of the other items on the menu, the salad’s dressing is prepared from scratch, using white balsamic vinegar and tomatoes and onions that she roasts in the restaurant’s oven after baking the sausage.
Success in the Restaurant Industry
In just a year, Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand has become a favorite gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. Looking back upon the restaurant’s brief history, Champion credits its success to her employees rather than herself. “If your employees are inspired by the food that you serve and you ask them to participate in your business, they often have better ideas than you could ever come up with yourself. Every day I ask my employees to come to work and help my business excel. That’s my secret, really. It’s not me at all. I did not come from the privilege of a college education and I didn’t have a lot of money. What I had was faith and blind ambition, thinking I’ll just do what it takes and I’ll get it done. I got very lucky early on and I realized you can’t just get it done, you have to have people supporting you and the best employees. My job here every single day is to thank my employees and to ask how it’s going and is there a way to do better. It’s that simple, really”, she said.
For more information on Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand, please visit http://www.thesausagestand.com.
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