Portland, brace yourselves for even more fried chicken.
If you let out a giant groan after reading that sentence—some days it feels like we have so many new joints hawking poultry that the city could practically take flight on our abundance of lightly breaded wings—this out-of-state newcomer boasts a menu that’s said to be bigger than any other in the segment. If that still doesn’t compel you, perhaps consider the fact that they have fan base—and they call themselves “Slimthusiasts.”
Slim Chicken, a fast-casual franchise based in Fayetteville, Ark., announced today that it had inked a deal to begin opening restaurants in both Portland and South Washington. And the company must be pretty confident its Southern concept will find popularity in the Pacific Northwest. It’s opening not just a handful of outlets, but a whopping 14 dine-in/drive-thru stores.
So far, Slim Chicken has not yet pinpointed any exact locations for groundbreakings, but it has named the person who will oversee the brand’s expansion. Ayaz Virji, who owns and operates five Burger Kings, with four more in development, was picked to helm the company’s latest project. He is also the current president of the Burger King Franchise Association—experience that Slim Chickens says made him an easy pick.
“I’ve had my eyes set on entrepreneurship ever since I was a kid,” Virji stated in a press release. “After helping out my parents at our family liquor store to work my way up through the Burger King system, I am eager to continue expanding my expertise and portfolio with leading concepts, and Slims is just that,” said Virji. “When I found Slim Chickens, I was immediately hooked by the food—it’s second to none in the chicken segment.”
The company was founded in 2003 by two high school buddies several years after they graduated. Now chief brand officer Greg Smart came up with the idea to open a fast-casual chicken-based restaurant after noticing several other similar chains in the Southeast, but always thought they weren’t executing it as well as it could be. He approached his friend and now CEO Tom Gordon about launching a business, since the latter had experience in the restaurant industry.
The two began testing recipes in Gordon’s garage, everything from the chicken to the sauces. Gordon managed to talk a food service rep into driving a semi filled with different ingredients into his residential neighborhood at no cost, which needless to say didn’t sit well with the neighbors—until they got to help taste test, who along with the pair’s friends, filled out score cards, analyzing texture and taste. The founders say the products that came out on top in the garage “focus groups” are largely unchanged from what you’ll find on the menu today.
Those offerings include tender and wing baskets with fries, four sandwiches with different seasonings or toppings, wraps, salads, and what appears to be the most indulgent item: chicken and waffles. And if you’re the type of chicken restaurant fan who is all about the sauces, Slim Chickens makes 17 of them in house.
The brand has opened more than 180 locations across the US and the United Kingdom. If you simply can’t wait for a Portland site to open (there is no timeline), you’ll need to make a 130-mile drive to the north. The closest Slim Chickens to our area is in Fort Lewis, Wash.