Rothschild and Gordon essentially handled all of the franchising business from 2013–2018, which resulted in about 200 deals being signed, including a couple internationally. Then Jackie Lobdell entered the fray as executive director of franchise development, with more than 25 years of sales professional experience, including Focus Brands, where she helped McAlister’s Deli expand to more than 400 stores across 28 states. From 2013 to present, workforce at the support center grew from a handful to over 40 individuals.
Now when Slim Chickens hosts Discovery Days, potential franchisees take a look at the systems and are taken aback at what Rothschild calls a “full-service franchisor.” That means training, operations, construction, facility design, marketing, purchasing, financial planning, and analysis.
These operators are well-funded and typically mid-to-large franchisees of other brands looking to complement their portfolio with another chicken brand. A good example is Barnett Management Company, an Arizona-based franchisee that operates more than 50 Burger King stores. The operators signed an agreement to open 32 Slim Chickens restaurants over the next decade.
“They see the success that the brand is having and what we have to offer not only to consumers, but the way that we support the franchisees with all the systems and processes and tools that we provide,” Rothschild says. “I think we’re able to attract some really high-caliber franchise talent that has come into this organization and not only joined us, but helped make us better.”
“We really admire entrepreneurs,” he adds. “We listen to what they have to say for the betterment of the brand and the system. I think if you put all that together that’s why we’re seeing the ramp up and growth and the addition of all these new franchisees coming into the brand.”
Similar to many up-and-coming chains, Gordon says, Slim Chickens restaurants require “good-looking, sexy retail” supported by housing stock and other traffic attractors like hospitals and malls. Typically, stores are between 2,400–2,800 square feet and adaptable to patios and unenclosed or enclosed kitchens.
He estimates 90 percent of the footprint is standalone drive-thru units, but there are some anomalies—endcaps, inline locations on college campuses, and military bases. The brand is no stranger to conversions, either, an important skill set given how many restaurants across the industry closed permanently during the pandemic.
The markets with the most opportunity for development include the Upper Midwest and Northeast, like Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New England, and West Virginia.