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Franchise watch: Slim Chickens’ global appeal is spurred on by staying true to its roots

Franchise watch: Slim Chickens’ global appeal is spurred on by staying true to its roots

From Fayetteville, Arkansas to London.

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Slim Chickens was hatched in 2003 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a small city near the northwest corner of Ozark National Forest. It’s the kind of place that, with its rolling hills and lively entertainment district on Dickson Street, feels quintessentially American.

Greg Smart and Tom Gordon, the founders of Slim Chickens, exude the same kind of Americanness. When they started Slim Chickens in their garage, they knew that their customers would expect – and deserve – something better than the status quo. Americans didn’t want greasy chicken that came in a soggy box. They wanted better chicken.

So there, in a little city nestled in the woods, Slim Chickens was born, and it wasted no time expanding. First, Slim Chickens expanded past the borders of its home state of Arkansas. Now, it has reached out across the pond and into the United Kingdom – and beyond. It turns out that people from all over the world were hungry for better chicken, too.

PERFECT MASTER FRANCHISING PARTNERS

To aid its foreign expansion, Slim Chickens has utilized a master franchising model to expand its international footprint. For its expansion into markets in the United Kingdom, Slim Chickens needed a partner with the capabilities to truly scale the concept they had so successfully honed domestically.

Slim Chickens knows that a successful master franchisee-franchisor relationship is not a one-way street and that both the franchisee and franchisor have to truly trust one another. Slims found that trust when it inked a master franchise agreement with Boparan Restaurant Group, cementing the brand as one with the potential for explosive international growth.

Slim Chickens partnered with the London-based restaurant group as their master franchisee overseeing the development of their business in the U.K. market. With 10 U.K. locations and more on the way, Boparan knows first- hand the possibilities that the Slim Chickens brand has in foreign markets. The opportunities for expansion are everywhere.

Utilizing a master franchise model is mutually beneficial. When partnering with Boparan, Slims absorbed all of its knowledge of the local markets. In turn, Boparan benefits from working with a passionate team that has the support networks to ensure success and a refined product. The expansion infrastructure that Slim Chickens already has in place makes the process of signing a multi-unit agreement an easy one.

Boparan had been looking for the perfect franchising opportunity in the better chicken segment when they found Slim Chickens. After exploring a number of options, it wasn’t hard for Boparan to see that Slim Chickens had what it takes to operate successfully overseas.

“When we were searching for a better chicken brand to bring to the U.K., we explored a number of options,” says Judd Williams, Boparan’s development director. “What really appealed to us about Slim Chickens was the quality of the branding, efficiency of the operating system, and of course, mouth-wateringly great food.”

UNIVERSALLY BELOVED MENU

One of the reasons Slim Chickens has such international appeal is its refined menu. You would be hard-pressed to find a culture on Earth that doesn’t feature poultry as a staple of its cuisine. Wherever there is chicken, there’s always going to be a space for better chicken. With its buttermilk marinade and hand-breaded, made-to-order tenders, and 17 house-made dipping sauces, customers the world over can enjoy a little slice of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Slim Chickens’ service model also lends the brand to international appeal. Whether customers are dining in, driving through, or carrying out, customers are always greeted with a warm smile and a desire to please. Apart from delicious chicken, Slims’ main export is southern hospitality.

With hundreds of thousands of happy customers, the brand has developed a strong devoted fanbase, also known as “Slimthusiasts,” helping to fuel the global demand for its hand-breaded, cooked-to-order tenders. Fans also resonate with the southern contemporary look and feel, and the open and inviting layout of the restaurants, which have proven to be popular the world over.

“When expanding internationally, it is crucial to select a master franchisee that understands”

All of this contributes to what Williams describes as a “success story” for the brand in the U.K. A growing fanbase of local Slimthusiasts fuels the creation of repeat customers and opens up even more possibilities for future growth.

“In the U.K., we have seen a very strong response to the brand and our business is growing well,” Williams says. “We’re really excited to be part of the Slim Chickens international success story.”

Slim Chickens has even found success on parts of the map where you might not expect to find an American chicken franchise, like in the Kuwaiti city of Salmiya, and a location in the Kuwaiti Airport, a testament to the popularity of Slims’ simple menu and universal appeal. Opportunities for growth can be found wherever there are hungry fans of simplified, tasty chicken.

SUPPORTIVE NETWORK

What makes Slim Chickens successful overseas are the very same things that made it a successful franchise in the United States: a robust support network of people who truly care about the brand who inspire other franchisees to get personally invested in its success.

“We really enjoy working with the Slims team,” Williams says. “It is a genuine people-focused business and franchise support has been excellent. Everyone at Slims is passionate about the brand, ready to share their expertise, and curious to help and support our business.”

With more than 150 units sold to 15 different multi-unit groups in 2020 and more than 500 restaurants currently in development, Slim Chickens is well on its way to becoming a household name. The prospects for growth abroad are limitless.

AT A GLANCE

Established: 2003

Number of units: 120

Location of units: U.S., U.K., Kuwait

Investment range: Variable

Options available: Traditional ground-up development, conversions, non-traditional (airports, army bases, malls)

Contact: Jackie Lobdell, VP of franchise development, jackie@slimchickens.com / (630)-300-4798

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