A new fast-casual restaurant chain is looking for a place to build in Maricopa.
Tom Barnett, owner of the Burger King franchise in town, signed a deal to bring the new concept to Arizona.
Slim Chickens is a franchise that Barnett describes as a competitor to Chick-Fil-A. It will bring 32 of the chicken-focused restaurants to the state to complement the 53 Burger Kings it already operates statewide.
Barnett identified Maricopa as a future market for thin chickens, but runs into a problem he hadn’t anticipated in this booming town.
“Try as we might, we weren’t able to find a pad for the restaurant at Maricopa,” Barnett said. “We looked at Sonoran Creek near Culver’s, but those towels were all used up. We wanted to go to this space north of Starbucks on the east side of 347, but it’s owned by Dignity Health. There is not a block that we could find.
Barnett said he needed about 1.4 acres to accommodate the restaurant, parking lot, drive-thru and a curbside pickup area. Once he finds a location, the executives of Slim Chickens are confident he will be successful.
“Tom came highly recommended,” said Jackie Lobdell, vice president of franchise development. “He and Shane (Jacobs, Barnett’s COO) are cold-as-a-stone operators. We know they were the Burger King franchisees of the year. We have a very strict vetting process and they more than met our requirements so we are delighted to have them in the franchise family. “
“WE FOCUS ON CHICKEN”
Barnett has been operating in Maricopa since 2018 when he opened his first Burger King on John Wayne Parkway. Its second Burger King is expected to begin construction in the coming months at The Wells, with a potential opening later this year. He considers the city to be a fertile market for thin chickens.
“At the moment there isn’t a good chicken restaurant in Maricopa, and we want to be the only one,” he said. “The quality of the product really attracted me to them. We tested it very thoroughly. In addition, the quality of the management and ownership team is exceptional, and in the long run, new franchises are only successful if existing franchisees are strong and competent. The Slims management team is at the forefront.
Lobdell said Slim Chickens management is eager to break into Grand Canyon state after selling locations in New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, and well in Texas.
“Arizona was the next natural progression as we move west,” she said.
“Here’s what I’m going to tell you about Slims – we translate pretty much anywhere. There aren’t many people in the United States who didn’t grow up eating chicken fillets and fries, and that’s our main hobbyhorse, ”she added. “Now we’ve got a pretty big menu for what we’re doing, but obviously we’re a chicken brand, you won’t find burgers or hot dogs or anything like that. We focus on the chicken. Really, really good food is what we all are.
“We were waiting to team up with a group like Team Barnett to go there, and we think it’s a perfect game.”
The Slim Chickens menu includes chicken sandwiches, wings, fillets, wraps, chicken and waffles, all made with premium hand-breaded buttermilk-marinated chicken fillets. They also offer a variety of Southern-influenced sides and desserts, as well as 15 dips and nine frostings for the chicken.
Barnett said he plans to offer delivery and catering services to Maricopa.
“Both are really big,” he said. “In these restaurants you will find a dedicated wall for all orders from delivery companies like Door Dash and Grub Hub. The catering part is also important. This concept lends itself to catering much more than Burger King – the fries are not very good, they only last about 5 minutes.
Barnett said he sees Slim Chickens as a competitor to Chick-Fil-A, even more so than Raising Cane’s, another popular chicken restaurant franchise. But he feels like Slim Chickens has an advantage over both.
“None of these other concepts have wings, which is huge,” he said.
In addition to building his Burger King business from a single location in 1980 until the 53 he owns today, Barnett and his partners were responsible for the development and growth of 24 Good Egg and Eggery restaurants in Arizona. before selling in 2014.
Based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Slim Chickens opened their first restaurant in 2003. In 2009 they expanded beyond Arkansas and in 2013 opened the first franchise store, reaching 100 stores in 2019. The company has 102 locations in 25 states, including 11 in the UK and two in Kuwait. The company’s website lists 12 other locations on the way in a state other than Arizona.