Dirty Bird Fried Chxx is Ready to Disrupt the Hot Chicken Scene

    The brand has plans to open as many as 30 new locations in the next year-plus.

    Dirty Bird Fried Chxx sandwich.
    Dirty Bird Fried Chxx
    The original Dirty Bird was only 263 square feet.

    With the recent acquisition of Dirty Bird Fried Chxx by Wags Capital for $20 million, the McHenry Group is looking to capitalize on momentum. The McHenry Group, which specializes in incubating experiential concepts, has maintained a minority share in the hot chicken restaurant and will continue to provide input as the young brand grows, TMG founder Michael McHenry says.

    Currently, plans involve using the injection of capital from Wags to open as many as 30 new locations in the next year-plus. Eight units are already under contract with a new Dirty Bird hitting the market in Ogden, Utah, last month.

    TMG, which was founded by McHenry three years ago, specializes in identifying and creating experiential concepts built to scale. McHenry says Dirty Bird Fried Chxx was created with growth and scalability in mind from the jump. TMG restaurants, he adds, calculate and account for every aspect of growth at conception, such as costs of goods, real estate, and market trends.

    “I think what’s most appealing [about the scalability of Dirty Bird] is that there are only 75 items on the inventory grocery list and less than 10 items on the menu,” McHenry says. “We can do everything in 250 square feet … I think being able to bottle up the culture, our ability to remain simplistic yet craft oriented and focused, minimizing supply chain and equipment flows, checks all the boxes for scalability under these conditions.”

    The original Dirty Bird was only 263 square feet, but don’t expect the new stores to be so miniature. Some of the upcoming units are already expected to be around 1,000 square feet, with drive-thru windows in the blueprint for some.

    “I don’t know of another hot chicken place you can go through a drive-thru,” he says. “Zero. Especially in the Southwest.”

    Although the second location opened only a month ago, McHenry says numbers have been promising. The second location is almost four times as big as the first, but the added square footage hasn’t slowed profitability.

    “We’re doing double the revenue that we did in the first location,” he says. “We see what we’re capable of. We’re excited to see what happens with the drive-thru and we’re confident in our ability to disrupt the marketplace.”

    While Dirty Bird isn’t the first hot chicken restaurant on the scene, it’s recent partnership with Wags Capital is going to make it competitive with older, more established brands, McHenry says. This is thanks to several reasons, such as an industry craving good news and a customer base looking for comfort in the form of their favorite foods.

    “It’s going to surprise the market because the brand is such a lifestyle and is so bold, it’s going to resonate quickly. The product is so approachable and so simplistic,” he says.

    Another reason why McHenry believes Dirty Bird will disrupt the market is the same reason why he thinks it’s so scalable––the simplicity.

    “The best meals out there have three to five components,” he says. “Three to five bites is all it takes to know you’ve nailed a sandwich.

    Most importantly, McHenry says the injection of cash is going to make the biggest difference.

    Now we have the workforce architecture and the capital to literally splash into the country almost overnight,” he says. “With the recipe of deal flow to operations and quality of brand and craft, I don't see anybody else in the country who has that. This was built by design to contend at the highest level across the country.”

    Having successfully incubated Dirty Bird, TMG is onto the next experiential concept. In the same way McHenry studied the market before launching Dirty Bird, he says his ability to “see around corners” and understand the market’s needs and customer’s wants has generated his next big idea, an all day, seven-days-a-week brunch concept called Sunday’s Best.

    Sunday’s Best was just recently brought to surface and features an all-day brunch menu with a resort-style atmosphere. The concept, McHenry says, is intended to get people excited and fill a void in the market since most places that serve brunch only do so on the weekends.

    “It’s definitely one to watch,” he says. “It’s built on brunch and champagne seven days a week and it’s experiential, it’s eclectic and inviting.”

    The menu is described as “new American” with a mix of southern hospitality and tableside service. Sunday’s Best will also feature an expansive Champagne list that spans from your standard bottle of prosecco to 2006 Cristal.

    “It's in an environment that you don't see in our market,” he says. “It feels like it's been transplanted from Palm Springs or Miami right into the southwest. I feel that brunch is another one of those categories that is underserved across the country and we're closing that gap right now with what I believe to be is the biggest project on the market.”

    McHenry says TMG is more than just a fast-casual, counter-service incubator, and Sunday’s Best is evidence of that. Being multi-faceted in that sense is what’s going to allow TMG to go toe-to-toe with major players in the national restaurant scene, not just the Southwest.

    We bring the detail of experiential dining to whatever forum we believe is appropriate,” he says. “Whether it's maximizing conveniences or creating an environment where we want you to eat pancakes and drink champagne with your friends for two hours. We're doing both at a really high level, and I don't know of a lot of groups that do both. I feel like we're just getting started. We're stacking some wins and we're poised to really disrupt the market.”