01 Sep Press – Fast Casual: ‘Better chicken’ brand flying nationwide’
by Cherryh Butler| Fast Casual
With beef prices soaring and the segment nearly flooded with “better burger” concepts, more operators are giving chicken a harder look. In fact, the limited-service chicken category increased last year by 4.6 percent to $17.1 billion, with strong growth from Chick-Fil-A growing past KFC into the top position as the largest chicken chain, according to Darren Tristano of Technomic. Within the fast casual segment, Zaxby’s is leading the pack and recently crossed the $1 billion sales threshold.
Although Zaxby’s top competitors include El Pollo Loco, Boston Market, Wingstop and Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Arkansas-based Slim Chickens plans to eventually top that “better chicken” list. Founders Greg Smart and Tom Gordon recently launched a franchising initiative in order to grow their 13 units to 20 brick-and-mortar locations by the end of the year, and plan to hit 600 by 2025.
“We have been in the midst of a ‘healthier lifestyle’ movement for quite some time now, and it’s very apparent that consumers care about where their food comes from and how it will affect their health,” Gordon said. “There’s plenty of chicken places out there, but ‘better chicken’ is all about getting back to the basics with a fresh, quality product.”