Slim Chickens has been a brand to watch for a few years now, but these days, you couldn’t miss the better-chicken brand if you tried. Despite stiff competition amongst quick service brands and within the ever-popular chicken segment, Slim Chickens has become an obvious standout.
So much so, that in addition to the other awards and accolades it has racked up recently – Slim Chickens received the Zor award from Franchise Times for best chicken franchise to buy, was named a Top Franchise by Franchise Business Review and ranked on the 40 Smartest Growing Brands list by Franchise Times, just to name a few – the brand also claimed QSR Magazine’s coveted Breakout Brand title earlier this year.
The title of breakout brand of the year is claimed by only the most promising of restaurant concepts, and it’s certainly more than justified – Slim Chickens has gone on quite the journey to become the powerhouse brand it is today.
The brand started in a garage in Arkansas in 2003. The first chicken tenders were cooked in turkey friers, tweaked and improved upon to become the mouthwatering favorites its fans know and love today.
Eventually, the founders moved out of the garage and into their first standalone location – decked out with bright yellow, green and purple Mardi Gras colors rather than the classic red we know the brand for today – in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
They never looked back: that single location has since evolved into the highflier better-chicken franchise spanning more than 30 states and two countries that it is now.
Growth worth clucking about
The brand has been steadily gaining momentum for years, and capped off 2021 with a record-breaking year that included more signed development deals and openings than the brand has ever seen before. The year was filled with milestones: Slim Chickens opened its 150th location, entered 65 new markets with development deals and had nearly 40 openings.
Regarding future growth, the brand is perfectly poised to reach its goal of opening 600 units by 2025. Slims ended the year with 350 signed agreements, bringing the total units in development to a whopping 750, more than 60 of which are slated to open this year.
The better-chicken brand also reported a 25 per cent comp store sales growth last year, with a 43.5 per cent increase in comp sales growth over the last four years.
This feat is all the more impressive when you consider the state of the global restaurant industry over the past few years – plagued by a global pandemic, many restaurants were forced to close their doors (permanently or temporarily), or at the very least had significantly lower rates of growth than projected.
Despite these challenges, Slim Chickens persisted. The brand was quick to adapt to the “new normal” of the restaurant industry and swiftly modified its model to better accommodate wary restaurant-goers by updating restaurant policies and enhancing existing pickup and delivery options.
As a result, the brand’s growth numbers are so impressive one might think the brand was wholly unaffected by the pandemic.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the growth we’ve seen in recent years, and we know we’ll continue to grow on an upward trajectory,” said Jackie Lobdell, vice president of franchise development at Slim Chickens. “We’re smashing through the goals we’ve set for ourselves, and with our dedication to quality and innovation, as well as the incredible commitment of our corporate team and franchisees alike, we only expect to continue that upward trend.”
Slim Chickens has expanded beyond the United States into the United Kingdom, with 16 existing locations and 13 more planned. Local food reviewer, Lauren McGaun, said: “Slims Chickens’ offerings trumps other chicken chains in Nottingham”; a review we expect to be repeated as the brand continues its expansion across the United Kingdom.
Slims has found success throughout the United States and across the pond, in part, because of its steadfast commitment to high-quality food. Unlike other chicken restaurants, Slim Chickens has an expansive menu that goes beyond chicken tenders and fries – its menu includes items such as chicken and waffles, wraps, jarred desserts, hand-spun milkshakes and Slims’ famous 17 house-made sauces.
And rather than falling into the trap of restaurants that have an extensive menu full of average options, everything Slims serves up is delicious, fresh, and so flavorful that customers find themselves coming back for more. The variety practically ensures everyone can find something they’ll enjoy, from the vegetarian in the group to the fried chicken enthusiast.
The zees, zors and fans
The quality and flavor of the food has also led to a cult-like following among Slim Chickens fans. Dubbed “Slimthusists,” these fans are as loyal as they come, fueling demand for the hand-breaded, cooked-to-order tenders – wherever a Slim Chickens pops up, they are bound to follow.
The people behind the curtain who make Slim Chickens’ success possible are the franchisees, an elite group of multi-unit operators who know the franchise industry and are stone-cold restaurant operators. These franchisees credit the brand for having some of the most robust franchisee support in the industry, even when compared to brands that have been in the game for decades longer. The support (and the food) is so impressive that Slim Chickens has successfully wooed burger and taco tycoons into the better chicken space.
Support from Slim Chickens’ corporate team begins the moment the contract is signed and continues through the life of each restaurant. From site selection and training to opening support and marketing assistance, Slim Chickens has perfected a formula that continues to propel the brand toward massive growth and acclaim.
Combine that support with the incredible food, fanbase, and knowledgeable corporate team, and you have the perfect recipe for success. Franchisee Mike Sartwell, who operates multiple locations in North Dakota and Montana, talks in-depth about the support the Slim Chickens corporate team provides franchisees.
“We did a lot of research on different brands before we decided to get involved with Slim Chickens,” said Sartwell. “Slim Chickens kind of came to the table towards the end, and thank God they did because that’s the one we chose. We made a trip to Fayetteville Arkansas, met the founders, the support team there, learned about all the systems that Slim Chickens had and it didn’t take us very long to decide to go with Slim Chickens and we’ve never looked back. It’s just been a great decision.
“From the very beginning Slim Chickens has been very franchisee friendly in every way you can possibly imagine,” he continued. “They’ve helped us find sites, and the construction department through the whole construction process is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it in my 45 years. [Slim Chickens] embraces feedback from franchisees; they listen to us, they’re concerned about our top lines, but equally concerned about our bottom lines.”
Likewise, franchisee Will Smith, who has been with the brand since 2018, couldn’t be happier with the success he’s found as a multi-unit owner throughout Colorado and Utah with Slim Chickens.
“We feel really blessed that we got in at just the right time. We’ve got fantastic territory. We have five stores open right now, and unbelievably our lowest volume AUV is $3.3m. I’ve been around a lot of brands for a lot of years, and we are so excited about the potential for Slims,” said Smith.
“It is such a fantastic brand with fantastic people. The management team – coming from a guy who’s built many companies – is bar none the best there is. They are some of the best professionals I’ve ever seen doing innovative things on behalf of the franchisees.”
Further franchise expansion
Slim Chickens is on the lookout for experienced multi-unit operators to expand the brand even further, with a particular interest in expanding in New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Nevada, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and across the United Kingdom.
Territories continue to sell at a rapid pace – the brand has already closed 85 deals this year – so reach out while markets are still available. Though territories sell out quickly, the Slim Chickens corporate team ensures they leave their franchisees with plenty of room to grow and a variety of footprints offerings, including dine-in and drive-thru locations and nontraditional venues, such as airports, stadiums, military bases and universities. Lock in your market while you can!
At a Glance Slim Chickens
Year established: 2003
Number of franchised outlets opened: 154 units
Locations of units: U.S. and U.K.
Investment range: Variable
Minimum required capital: $3m – $12m variable
Contact: Jackie Lobdell, vice president of franchise development: email@example.com, 630-300-4798