As the growing Slim Chickens brand expands to Texas, Tyler is at the top of the list to get the chicken tender and wing franchise.
The restaurant started more than 10 years ago and now has 14 locations in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The menu also offers salads, wraps and sandwiches, fried pickles, okra, and 15 flavors of dipping sauces.
Construction of the Tyler restaurant is planned to kick off this fall.
Greg McKay, of Texarkana, was a home builder for 24 years before becoming the first franchisee of Slim Chickens. Soon after his daughter began attending the University of Arkansas in 2007, she took him to eat at the restaurant near the school. He had always had an interest in the restaurant business and after eating there, the wheels started turning in his head about bringing a franchise to Texarkana. When the opportunity came in 2012, he was excited to become the first franchisee, he said.
He opened Slim Chickens in Texarkana in June 2013 and plans to open his second in Tyler. “We really like the town of Tyler,” he said, adding that it “seems like a bigger Texarkana for us.”
McKay, 43, plans to soon close on a vacant pad site at 7925 S. Broadway Ave., in the Broadway Hills Plaza retail center across the street from Buffalo Wild Wings. He said they hope to start construction in late September and open in February.
Sam Rothschild, vice president of franchise development, said they looked at several locations in Tyler. “They’re all busy,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of people and there’s great car traffic. … We believe it’s a market that Slim Chickens will do well in.”
The restaurant, which has a drive-thru, will start with nearly 50 employees and will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. McKay said they chose the location because they wanted to be close to all of the new development happening off South Broadway Avenue.
Everything at Slim Chickens is cooked to order and there are no heat lamps in the store, McKay said. The chicken is never frozen and can be served fried or grilled. Although the menu is not huge, McKay said it is diverse, offering healthy options such as salads and wraps.
Rothschild said Slim Chickens was started in 2003 in Fayetteville, Arkansas by Tom Gordon and Greg Smart.
Smart came up with the idea of the concept for fresh fried chicken, which at the time, was not being done in that part of the country, Rothschild said. The men started cooking in their garage and after mastering the recipe, opened their first restaurant about a year later. The first store remains near The University of Arkansas campus.
Gordon’s mother came up with the name Slim Chickens. Slim is a character used as a kind of company logo — a chicken wearing a fedora, suspenders and a guitar neck for a necktie. “We’re kind of a Delta, Memphis-blues kind of brand,” Rothschild said, adding that Slim is a character that represents the soul of the brand.
The company intends to grow nationwide to a footprint of 600 restaurants during the next decade, he said.
McKay has a franchise agreement to open four stores. After Tyler, he plans to open a second restaurant in Texarkana, as well as one in Longview or Marshall. He said his long-range plans are to open 20 stores in 10 to 12 years.
Other Slim Chickens are planned for Lubbock and the Dallas area, Rothschild said, adding that 20 restaurants are under agreement to be constructed.
“We’re excited to come to Tyler,” he said. “We’re looking forward to being involved in the community.”
During the school year, Slim Chickens will have a student/teacher night, where students of any age will receive a discount. He said they also do a lot of fundraising and sponsoring local schools.
“We think the people in Tyler are going to love the brand … we’re excited about coming to the market,” Rothschild said, adding that he worked for Applebee’s and Bennigan’s when the chains opened restaurants here. He has worked in the restaurant industry since 1975 and joined Slim Chickens in October.
For more, visit slimchickens.com.