Chick-fil-A was a Brainerd fixture when Eastgate Mall was one of Chattanooga's top retail sites, but the eatery left when the center shifted to more of an office complex after Hamilton Place mall opened 25 years ago.
In January, the Atlanta-based eatery will return to Brainerd when a new freestanding Chick-fil-A opens at the nearby Brainerd Village shopping center.
The company is building a 4,569-square-foot restaurant that will seat 164 customers, including 20 people outside.
Nick Goebeler, who will own and operate the business, said the unit is under construction on the site of a former EPB pay station off Brainerd Road.
"It's a high commuter-traffic road," said Goebeler, adding that the eatery will have dual drive-through ordering.
Plans are to hire at least 80 employees, he said. Its proximity to UTC and Tennessee Temple University should help provide a solid labor pool, Goebeler said.
He said the restaurant also should help revitalize Brainerd Village, which is about two-thirds occupied.
Jennifer Downey of Jackson Bakery, a longtime tenant, said Chick-fil-A will bring more people to the center.
"They're a national, well-known company," she said. "I think people are excited to have them on this side of town."
Goebeler, who is an owner-operator in Atlanta, said he likes the location of the Brainerd store.
"Putting the restaurant on a main artery of town - that bodes pretty well," he said. Goebeler, who said he didn't know the total project cost, added that the eatery's proximity to Chattanooga Airport may help, along with the nearby Walmart.
The restaurant will have an indoor play area. Also, the eatery will mark its grand opening by giving away a one-year supply of free Chick-fil-A meals to the first 100 adults, the company said.
Chick-fil-A had 2011 sales of more than $4 billion. It plans to open nearly 100 new sites in 2013, according to the company.