Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits reached its milestone 500th unit when its latest store opened in Surf City, North Carolina, last week.

Eric Newman, executive vice president of Charlotte, North Carolina–based Bojangles’ Restaurants Inc., says the milestone is “a validation and indication of what’s next.”

“We’ve been disciplined in our growth, but within those disciplines, are determined to increase market share—not to back off, but to double down in the recession,” Newman says. “We are determined that on the other side of this recession, we are and will be coming out with significantly increased market share.”

Newman says that Bojangles’, which is also celebrating its 35th anniversary, has helped its growth by perfecting its execution and delivering quality to its loyal customers—something that keeps Bojangles’ “both a mature brand and a growth brand at the same,” Newman says.

“We are focused on high growth, but we’re focused on high growth as an outward movement from our core—in other words, we’re disciplined and we avoid the temptations of trying to be everything to everyone everywhere at the same time,” he says.

Despite the recession, Bojangles’ has added 100 net units in the last four years and grown to nearly $800 million in system-wide sales, Newman says.

He says the brand will continue to grow in its core markets of North and South Carolina, but that roughly half of all growth will take place in newer markets like Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.

The company’s franchising efforts, Newman says, have not been devastated by the recession—a good sign for Bojangles’, as two thirds of all units are franchisee-owned.

“We already see signs of [growth],” he says. “It seems as if there’s been some pent-up demand, with interest from some people who have been holding back for a couple of years.”

By Sam Oches

Breakfast, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Growth, News, Bojangles