There was a time, not so long ago, when Slim Chickens didn’t even have the need for somebody working franchise development full time. The fast casual, better-chicken brand broke into the franchising sector in 2013, and only signed a handful of franchising deals the next couple of years.
Now, the Slim Chickens brand is red hot, having inked well over 450 new unit agreements since March 2020, including 350 multi-unit franchise agreements in 2021 alone. Since January, the brand has celebrated the opening of nearly 30 stores, with close to 20 more slated to open before the end of 2021.
More numbers indicate some of the fervor surrounding the brand, like the 14 percent same-store sales growth, or the system wide revenue growth of over 35 percent.
So how did Slim Chickens go from a small brand with a devoted following, to one of the fastest-growing franchises in the country, receiving nationwide recognition for its chicken offerings? It starts with a simple formula, says Vice President of Franchise Development Jackie Lobdell.
“Number one, our food is and always will be incredible,” Lobdell says. “We get so much positive feedback on our menu it’s ridiculous—people just love us and really respond to our brand. I think one of the reasons is that there aren’t a lot of people who didn’t grow up eating chicken tenders and fries, and we happen to do it better than anyone else.”
A second reason for Slim Chickens’ explosive growth, Lobdell says, is the way the brand is structured. That relatively slower growth that was happening when the brand first began franchising concealed the fact that Slim Chickens was getting inundated with franchise inquiries. The brand was taking it slower, perfecting the franchising formula, and putting the pieces into place that would help it scale in a big way.
Even now, Slim Chickens is very selective about who it franchises with. Lobdell says her team looks for partners who she calls “stone cold operators,” or people who have extensive franchising experience and are looking to sign multi-unit deals that will give them the rights to large territories and regions. In fact, due to demand, the brand is running out of areas where it is looking for franchisees, but there are still parts of Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia that remain untapped, along with large swaths of space in the northeast.
“Our brand is on fire,” Lobdell says. “Like I said, that has to do with our food and the way the company is run—our operators just absolutely love us. We also have drive-thrus at all of our locations, and we performed unbelievably well during COVID. We were nimble and pivoted to things like curbside pickup within a week. We doubled down on marketing efforts, and already had a phenomenal app in place.”
Lobdell’s claim that franchisees love Slim Chickens is backed up by several interviews conducted by QSR magazine. For example, Harold Wallace, a Slim Chickens franchisee in the Nashville area, says he has felt nothing but supported since joining the Slims family.
“Franchising with Slim Chickens has been nothing short of outstanding, to be honest with you,” Wallace says. “One of the biggest things I enjoy about franchising with them is that it’s not at all an adversarial relationship between the franchisor and franchisee—they truly are team players and they want to help us not just maintain but grow our business.”
Now working with Ten Point Capital—which helped Tropical Smoothie grow into a top 50 quick-service brand—Slim Chickens has robust support to help it scale and reach its growth goals. With the hundreds of franchise agreements that have been signed in the past 18 months, Lobdell believes the sky is the limit for Slim Chickens.
“We are a very unique franchising opportunity,” Lobdell says. “We own some corporate stores in Northwest Arkansas that we use to test and tweak different aspects of our formula, but otherwise our sole focus is our franchisees. Their success is our success, and we dedicate everything we do to making sure they get every penny they can out of that P&L.”
For more information on franchising with Slim Chickens, visit the company’s website.