There aren’t many 1,200 unit brands that manage to fly under the radar, but Chester’s Chicken believes it’s doing just that. With locations in each state within the continental U.S., the brand says it has achieved a “cult-like” following by serving up high-quality fried chicken in spaces that are not always known for the quality of their food, like c-stores and supermarkets.
“Our brand is centered around fresh, double hand-breaded, never-frozen chicken and making the best possible product for our customers,” says William Culpepper, vice president of marketing at Chester’s International. “By comparison to other products in c-stores and supermarkets, ours really stands out, and that makes Chester’s a destination.”
The quality of product is how Chester’s stands out as a consumer-facing brand, but there are many other reasons that the brand stands out as a franchising opportunity. For one, start-up costs are relatively low—franchisees can open stores for as little as $40,000—as Chester’s has the agility to fit into footprints of 500 square feet or less. Secondly, thanks to its hot case and counter-service model, locations rarely require more than three employees to be on the floor at once, even at peak hours, making it easier to fully staff restaurants despite the ongoing challenges other brands are facing in that department.
Finally—crucially—Chester’s Chickens does not charge royalty fees, but instead acts as the wholesaler of goods to each store. Not only is the lack of royalty fees a huge financial boon to store owners under the Chester’s brand, but it improves the relationship between franchisor and franchisee, says Andy Chand, executive vice president at Chester’s International.
“This brand has the greatest relationship I’ve ever seen between franchisor and franchisee,” Chand says. “Not having royalties really removes the wedge between those two parties and makes it so that we’re hyper focused on the profitability of our franchisees.”
About two years ago, Chester’s rolled out a brand refresh across its footprint, focused on revamping the menu and creating prototypes that would help the brand stand out in a market that’s becoming more competitive. The brand added items like a Fried Chicken Sandwich, and a Buffalo Chicken sandwich and revamped its sides like green beans and mac and cheese.
Now the brand is seeking to grow into some non-traditional franchising markets, like college campuses, airports, and stadium spaces. While California is the brand’s fastest-growing market, Chester’s is seeking to grow in places like Texas, Florida, the Carolinas, and many other markets as well.
“Our concept is turnkey,” Culpepper says. “We’re looking for franchisees who are fully committed to our brand’s program and have a passion for serving quality products. We’re specifically seeking multi-unit operators, or those who have the potential to be. We feel like we have a ton of white space to develop in various markets, and anybody who is looking to open a great concept in a high traffic location is somebody we want to talk to.”
For more on franchising with Chester’s, visit chesterschicken.com.