Southern Classic Chicken, the Louisiana-based fried chicken franchise, is taking another giant stride forward in achieving the full expression of its already-beloved brand as it gears up for nationwide expansion. Established in 1989, the concept is renowned for its deep-rooted tradition, offering homestyle fried chicken and sides with an unbeatable price point in the American South. Today, the team is ready to introduce a new restaurant prototype, located in Bossier City, Louisiana, that not only refreshes the brand image but also caters to the evolving preferences of its customers.
Thomas E. O’Keefe, the Managing Director of Southern Classic Chicken, is one of the masterminds behind this new evolution. O’Keefe has more than 30 years of franchise experience as a franchise attorney, and has held executive roles with Popeyes, Church’s Chicken, Ruth Chris Steak House and Anytime Fitness. He was most recently President of Smoothie King before going on his own to help growing companies like Southern Classic Chicken. Throughout his tenure, he has witnessed the cyclical challenges and successes of many brands.
It was about five years ago that O’Keefe was approached about Southern Classic Chicken. The Fannings, the founding family of the Southern Classic Chicken brand, were looking to further expand their operations through franchising. They retained O’Keefe as a Managing Director to help format and launch their growth plans.
“When I get involved with a franchise, I have to believe in the people behind it,” says O’Keefe. “Beyond that, I have to believe in the product, the unit level economics, the cost of entry, the ROI, the franchisee support, etc. This concept checked every box.”
However, upon making a plan for the future, O’Keefe and his team quickly recognized that while the brand enjoyed a cult-like following, there was an essential component missing: a modern, contemporary physical presence.
“The one thing we thought was lacking was the design of the building and the look,” O’Keefe says. “The physical locations weren’t measuring against a contemporary competitive set. We felt that it was essential to evolve the trademarks and the branding to bring it forward into the future.
This realization led to the birth of a new design and refresh, one that is now the full expression of the brand.”
In order to update the Southern Classic Chicken branding, which has largely been the same since the ‘80s, the brand worked with a professional design team to update the colors, the logos and the branding.
“We thought the original logo was a little hard to decipher for those who weren’t already familiar with it,” said O’Keefe. “We concentrated on cleaning it up to make it that much more easily identifiable as we expand outside of the home state. We want the overall SCC branding to be a cleaner and sleeker look.”
And while the goal is to update Southern Classic Chicken’s looks to feel more modern, the team is still committed to staying true to their roots as the franchise grows. Sourcing the highest quality ingredients and products possible, for example, remains a top priority so the company can provide the “absolute best” to its customers at a better price point and value than competitors.
But the update wasn’t just cosmetic. Diving into the specifics of the revamped operations, O’Keefe pointed out that while most Southern Classic Chicken locations were already operating under the brand’s coveted drive-thru, walk-up-only model, the team felt a need to improve functionality.
Operational efficiency has been increased through elements such as a new floor plan and a dual lane to fit more cars (up to 30) in each lot, which keeps people out of the street. And by shrinking the footprint of the building, the company has found that it has a much higher throughput. The emphasis on throughput has been a core focus, considering the AUV of the existing locations is $2.4 million, with the top six locations boasting an AUV of $3.4 million.
The new Southern Classic Chicken restaurant prototype officially opened in Bossier City in mid-April 2023 and has already received an overwhelmingly positive reception from the community.
“The drive-thru lanes open at 10 o’clock in the morning and are jam-packed until 8 o’clock at night,” O’Keefe says. “People can’t get enough.”
Looking to the future, O’Keefe says all new stores, whether company-owned or franchised, will be built under the new prototype. Existing stores will also see elements of the new design incorporated gradually. Southern Classic Chicken is looking forward to growing steadily with the right franchisees starting in states such as Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.
“When it comes to the Southern Classic Chicken franchise, the product speaks for itself, the unit level economics are very attractive, and now, with this new look, we believe that we align with, if not exceed, the competitive set,” O’Keefe adds. “We have all the ingredients to take this franchise to new markets now that we’ve honed it to become a very unique and attractive franchise opportunity in today’s market. The time has never been better to join Southern Classic Chicken.”