When Slim Chickens began franchising about 10 years ago, it had a lofty goal: reach 600 units by 2025. Turns out that may have been a conservative number as the brand now has over 180 units open, with more than 900 on the way.
With its top group of franchise restaurants posting a whopping $3.86 million AUV—a 13.6 percent increase year-over-year—it’s apparent that the brand is built for the long haul. Jackie Lobdell, vice president of franchise development, says the successful business model is driven by a dynamic team that is unlike any she’s ever been around.
“The culture that we’ve built permeates throughout everything we do,” Lobdell says. “If you’re part of the team, you have to be passionate about this brand. And I really think that’s contagious. It’s such a positive culture that starts in the restaurants and goes all the way up to the executive level.”
Founded in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2003, Slim Chickens has been selling high-quality tenders and wings at reasonable prices ever since. In recent years, innovation has added menu offerings like Chicken and Waffles, a lineup of premium chicken sandwiches, salads, and LTOs like Mac and Cheese bowls. The brand also boasts about its 17 proprietary dipping sauces that help customize its product to a diners’ taste.
The industry is starting to take note of what Lobdell refers to as the leading chicken concept in the franchise space. In fact, QSR magazine named Slim Chickens its “Breakout Brand of 2021.” Slim Chickens was also recognized as a Top Recession-Proof Business by Franchise Business Review and one of the Fastest-Growing Franchises by Entrepreneur magazine.
“There has been so much hard work, passion, and integrity we’ve put into the brand,” Lobdell says. “Getting recognized with awards is confirmation of that. Listen, it’s great to win awards, but what our franchisees say about Slim Chickens is more important to us.”
And franchisees have some great things to say about Slim Chickens. “From the very beginning Slim Chickens has been very franchisee-friendly in every way you could possibly imagine,” says Mike Sartwell, owner of five Slim Chickens locations in Montana and North Dakota. “The team was there to help with every aspect—from site selection, marketing, training, operations—everything. The brand is amazing.”
With over four decades of experience in the industry, Sartwell is the type of franchisee that Lobdell and her team are looking for as they continue to grow the Slim Chickens brand. He’s what Lobdell calls a “stone-cold operator,” a term that refers to a level of business acumen required to ink a multi-unit deal with the brand. Because make no mistake: Slim Chickens isn’t partnering with just anybody.
“We have a really rigorous vetting process,” Lobdell says. “We only sign multi-unit deals with really high-caliber franchisees. That’s what makes this restaurant brand so successful, and it’s what keeps up that culture of the brand.”
For more on franchising with Slim Chickens, visit slimchickensfranchise.com.