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Top Chicken Franchises to Buy in 2023

Turn your fried chicken obsession into a business by buying into one of the top chicken franchises.


Although trends, especially in the food industry, typically die down over time, one market garnered so much popularity, it became its own franchise category: chicken. Popularity skyrocketed in 2019 during the “chicken sandwich wars,” when Popeyes released a new fried chicken sandwich that was relatively unknown until Chick-fil-A touted its sandwich as the original. Not only did Popeyes and Chick-fil-A see an increase in revenue, but other concepts also began introducing their own competing chicken products to the point where some franchises are committed to chicken alone. If you’re a fan of fried chicken — or any chicken — or simply want to jump into an exciting industry that continues to expand, a chicken franchise might be right for you.

These are the top 12 chicken franchises for 2023, based on our 44th Annual Franchise 500 List.

4. Slim Chickens

Number of U.S. franchise units: 126

Whether it is chicken tenders, wings, or wraps, the mission of Slim Chickens is to serve the best hand-breaded chicken using the freshest ingredients. Since its inception in 2003, the foundation for Slim Chickens has always been serving customers the best meals with 100 percent all-natural premium tenderloins.

Slim Chickens strives to be known to go above and beyond in creating its food. Slim Chickens franchise locations serve main course chicken meals with side dishes including southern-fried pickles or fried mushrooms. Customers might want to save room for delicious strawberry cheesecake and chocolate brownie desserts. As a fun change of pace, all items are typically served in mason jars.


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Slim Chickens Recognized Nationally with Accolades in Top Franchise Enumerations

By In the News

Breakthrough Better-Chicken Brand Receives Notable Ranking in Both Entrepreneur and Franchise Business Review Magazine

February 10, 2023 // // FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Slim Chickens has been named in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500® list as well as in Franchise Business Review’s 2023 Top Franchise list, which are both considered the world’s best and most comprehensive franchise rankings. The brand achieved a spot in the top 23% in Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500® list and ranked 27th overall in the Top 50 Midsize category in Franchise Business Review’s list. This year also marks Slim Chickens’ fourth-consecutive year on the Franchise 500® list. The recognition received by Slim Chickens highlights the successes accomplished by the brand in 2022.

“Being named a top brand in two of the largest franchise publications is an incredible honor,” said Jackie Lobdell, vice president of franchise development at Slim Chickens. “We’ve seen outstanding growth in 2022 and have no intention of slowing down that momentum in 2023. I am more than excited to see where the year of development takes us and look forward to providing our southern comfort food to Slimthusiasts across the world.”

There are several key factors that go into the Entrepreneur Franchise 500® evaluation, including costs and fees, size and growth, support, brand strength, and financial strength and stability. Each franchise is given a cumulative score based on an analysis of more than 150 data points, and the 500 franchises with the highest cumulative scores become the Franchise 500® in ranking order. Being placed as 115th and in the top 23% of franchises on the list highlights the successful year Slim Chickens had, including the opening of 50 new locations across the world.

Franchise Business Review’s Top 2023 Franchise list provides the only rankings and awards for franchise companies based solely on actual franchisee satisfaction and performance. Slim Chickens was among over 360 franchise brands, representing nearly 38,000 franchise owners, that participated in Franchise Business Review’s research. The brand’s franchisees were surveyed on 33 benchmark questions about their experience and satisfaction regarding critical areas of their franchise systems, including training & support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations, and financial opportunity.

“We have spent a lot of time and investment in the people that enable us to do this,” says COO Sam Rothschild. “We understand what it takes to support our franchisees and we have the systems and processes in place to do so. We are honored to have the quality of franchisees that we have today and are eager to continue the momentum. There is still a lot of opportunity in the U.S. to grow with Slim Chickens and we have started to open in Michigan, Wisconsin, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Not only are we rapidly expanding domestically but we are thrilled to continue to enter new markets abroad as well through our ongoing internal support processes.

With hundreds of thousands of happy customers, the brand has developed a strong devoted fanbase, also known as “Slimthusiasts,” helping to fuel demand for the hand-breaded, cooked-to-order tenders. Slim Chickens has distinguished itself in the “better chicken” segment by offering high-quality food and 17 house-made dipping sauces, allowing customers to enjoy a different flavor profile with each visit. Its menu is broader than many in the category, offering chicken tenders, fresh salads, sandwiches, chicken and waffles, chicken wings and unique side items. Fans also resonate with the southern contemporary look and feel and the open and inviting layout of Slim Chickens restaurants, which speak to the hospitality mindset that anchors the brand.

To view Slim Chickens in the full ranking in both publications, visit or

For more information on the Slim Chickens franchise opportunity, visit

About Slim Chickens

Slim Chickens, a leading fast casual franchise which features dine-in and drive-through in the better-chicken segment, opened in 2003 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Offering high-quality food with a focus on fresh, delicious ingredients, the brand prides itself on its southern flair and commitment to hospitality, all in a fast-casual setting. Food is cooked to order, and the differentiated menu features chicken tenders, fresh salads, sandwiches, chicken and waffles, chicken wings and unique side items, alongside 17 house-made dipping sauces.

Today, there are more than 200 Slim Chickens locations open and 1,100 restaurants in development.

For more information on the Slim Chickens franchise opportunity, visit

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Slim Chickens Adds 35 spots, 11 New Markets This Year

By In the News

September 4,2022

FAYETTEVILLE — Slim Chickens continues to expand its footprint nationwide with its restaurants moving into new markets even as the industry as a whole faces ongoing challenge from inflation and worker shortages.

The Fayetteville-based fast casual chicken restaurant chain said it obtained 120 new development agreements this year. That puts the company with more than 1,100 restaurants in various stages of planning.

In 2022 Slim Chickens has opened more than 35 spots in 11 new markets. In total, the chain has opened more than 185 locations in 30 states. It also has an overseas presence, with 27 locations in the United Kingdom.

The chain’s average unit volume in 2021, which equates roughly to revenue, is almost $2.5 million per restaurant, a new record. For the chain’s high-volume locations, that figure rises to $3.8 million, a nearly 14% increase compared with the year-ago period.

Slim Chickens was founded in 2003 and is privately owned. Ten stores in Northwest Arkansas are owned and run by the company while the remaining locations are franchise operations.

Slim Chickens competes in the fast-casual segment, where restaurants provide a slightly more formal dining experience compared with fast-food operations. While fast-casual restaurants don’t have a wait staff, servers generally carry food to tables.

Sam Rothschild, chief operations officer for Slim Chickens, said in a recent interview that business is strong and the chain is seeing success in new markets as well as in areas where the brand is well known.

Rothschild said drive-thru, delivery and meal pickup, all areas that the chain saw grow during the pandemic are all still key elements but added the chain is seeing customers return to its restaurants for sit-down dining.

Read the full story in Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette here:

Slim Chickens Opens First Location in North Carolina

By In the News

March 15, 2022

Slim Chickens, a leading fast-casual franchise in the better-chicken segment, has opened its newest restaurant — and its first in North Carolina — at 5535 Prosperity Ridge Rd. in Charlotte. Seasoned restaurant group Break Bread Ventures is at the helm of the deal.

“We are so excited to open our first location in North Carolina,” says Jackie Lobdell, vice president of franchise development at Slim Chickens. “Partnering with talented and passionate operating groups like Break Bread Ventures makes adding Slim Chickens to new communities across the country easy — we can’t wait for everyone in Charlotte to get a taste of Slims!”

Slim Chickens first opened in 2003 in Fayetteville, Ark. Today, there are more than 155 Slim Chickens locations open and 800 restaurants in development. The brand recently launched a strategic multi-unit franchise growth initiative to reach 600 units in 10 years. For more information, visit

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Slim Chickens signs 254 multi-unit agreements in 2021

By In the News


Slim Chickens, a fast-casual franchisor in the better chicken segment of the industry, is celebrating a strong 2021 so far with 254 multi-unit franchise agreements inked since January.

The brand has also opened 17 new locations this year, with plans for a further 35 before 2022.

“We knew we’d have a good year, but this year is on track to be one of the best yet,” said vice president of franchise development, Jackie Lobdell. “The chicken segment is exploding, and our leadership team, training, resources and franchisee validation continue to grab the attention of highly qualified restaurant operators who want to be a part of our story.”
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, Slim Chickens has achieved 14 per cent positive comp store sales growth, as well as systemwide revenue growth of over 35 per cent.

It has expanded into multiple new markets with its latest signings, including Alabama, Texas, Ohio, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, and Virginia.

Founded in 2003, Slim Chickens currently operates more than 130 locations and has over 600 restaurants in development. This positions the brand well on track to achieve its goal of 700 units in 10 years.

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Slim Chickens Plots Expansion in Fast- Casual Space

By In the News

Nov 23, 2021

Slim Chickens Development Co., a fast-casual franchisor, has signed several recent developments that will expand the 151-unit Slim Chickens chain, which features dine-in and drive-thru.

The company in November announced a deal for 10
locations in the Dallas area, with franchisees Farouk Jamal and Ali Poonja, after a 32-unit deal in September for cities in Arizona with Barnett Management Co.

Atlanta-based investment firm 10 Point Capital bought a significant stake in the Fayetteville, Ark. Based Slim Chickens concept in 2019, when it had just over 80 units. Jackie Lobdell, Slim Chickens’ vice president of franchise development, said in an interview, said, “Slim Chickens is in the better-chicken segment and specializes in chicken tenders and fries at our core.

“We focus on food,” she said. “We’re all about the food. we started in Fayetteville, Ark., 2003. We started franchising about eight years ago.”

Of the brand’s current 151 restaurants, nine of them are company-owned, Lobdell said. Lobdell said the brand seeks seasoned restaurant operators as franchisees, especially among franchisees of other brands that are looking to diversify into the chicken segment.

The pandemic and supply-chain issues did stall some development this year, she said. “We had planned this year for 45 to 50” new restaurants. “I think we’re going to be closer to between 40 and 45,” Lobdell said. “So it did have an effect, but we’re full steam ahead.”

Slim Chickens tenders are offered with a choice from among 17 dipping sauces. The brand is also known for its desserts offering in Mason jars.

The brand this fall opened its larges campus location at Liberty University I Lynchburg, Va.

“That is one of our largest campus locations,” Lobdell said. “It’s actually a freestanding building but on campus property and interestingly enough the president of Sodexo … went out to take a look at it because our numbers were so high.”

For the full story in Nation’s Restaurant News click here:

These Will be The Fastest -Growing Restaurant Chains In 2023

By In the News

On the rise to fame? Possibly.


2. Slim Chickens

Co-founded in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2003 by Tom Gordon and Greg Smart, Slim
Chickens didn’t start franchising until 2013. A whole lot has changed since then, with the chicken chain bringing in $265 million in system sales between 2019-2021. Today, there are over 140 Slim Chickens locations. “There are a lot of things that are the same. I still feel so responsible for all 8,000 people that work for the brand,” Gordon adds. “It’s nice to be in a position of financial strength versus scrambling for the first decade. That’s allowed us to do a lot of great things for our company, our franchisees.” Gordon was also asked about his approach to sustainable expansion: “Because we’re not as big as some of our competitors, we have to go fast. We have to go as fast as we possibly can without taking big risks. And how do you balance speed and giant risk? It’s with using data, utilizing franchisee intel, utilizing local professionals.”

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The Future of Fast Casual in 2023 and Beyond

By In the News
January 2023

The pandemic inspired fast casuals to adopt drive-thrus and delivery, marking the beginning of a new innovation era that has led to new restaurant designs and technological solutions to supply chain and labor shortage challenges.

When COVID-19 hit, fast-casual restaurants transformed their parking lots into dining rooms in the form of curbside service, and concepts that once prided themselves on not offering big chain-associated drive-thrus promptly began adopting the format to serve customers. Then, the industry saw restaurant groups start partnering with third-party delivery providers, despite many claiming they would never do so because of the steep fees.

“I thought that honestly once COVID was dwindling down, that part of the business would subside a little bit and people would go back to their normal routines. Well what we’ve seen is, delivery is now a part of the normal routine, and that part of the business has not dropped off,” says Sam Rothschild, chief operating officer of 200-unit Slim Chickens.

Indeed, consumers are now conditioned to expect food delivered to their front doors at the tap of a touchscreen, and study after study keeps proving the steep fees are no match for the value of convenience. Delivery orders now account for about 10 percent of Slim Chickens’ business, while curbside, takeout, and catering make up about 20 percent. Drive-thru business is 50 percent, and the other 20 percent is dine-in— whereas pre-pandemic, dine-in accounted for about 35 percent of sales.

“We had to come up with new standard operating procedures, because you grew entirely overnight a whole new day part or segment of your business that really wasn’t there before, because delivery in our segment was very small, and takeout was OK,” Rothschild says.

That meant reevaluating packaging, staffing, design layouts, and more. If “pivot,” “unprecedented,” and “new normal” were the buzzwords of 2021, “optimization,” “efficiency,” and “new prototype” are gaining cause to be called the popular clichés of 2022—for good reason.

Now that dining rooms are filling up again, yet off-premises channels remain far elevated to prior levels, restaurateurs are grappling with how to balance their various business formats in a way that satisfies consumers and their labor force—groups with higher expectations and standards than ever, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pandemic-related pressures continue to force the restaurant industry to make progress with new, creative solutions to improve customer and employee experiences, which in turn make for better systems overall.

Slim Chickens, for example, reconfigured its restaurants’ kitchens and designated parking spaces for delivery drivers to help optimize the flow for employees and guests. After recently bringing on a new vice president of technology, the brand is also looking at implementing new technologies in the drive-thru and adding staff members armed with order entry pads in parking lots to increase throughput.

“We spent a lot of time over the last year retooling our prototype, then going back and starting to do some work in the kitchens we already have, looking at new equipment and new processes,” Rothschild says, which also included reengineering cook lines, and moving around existing equipment to increase food quality, accuracy, and speed. “We’re just trying to get more efficient and keep costs under control with lots of out of the box thinking.”

Flexibility in Design has become a staple of fast- casual coming out of COVID-19

Finding solutions to supply chain challenges

Despite progress being made in so many areas, the restaurant industry still faces strong headwinds, from supply chain and labor to inflationary pressures. The National Restaurant Association published a survey in November 2021 that found 95 percent of restaurants experienced significant supply delays or shortages of key food items, and 75 percent of restaurants have made menu changes because of those issues.

At Slim Chickens, having a menu centered around one protein helped, Rothschild says, plus boasting an experienced supply chain team who developed great relationships with vendors.

“We were chasing some supply stuff around, but we never had a real issue where we couldn’t serve our menu,” Rothschild says. “Where we ran into issues like my peers was the cups, the lids, the straws, and plastic ancillary items in supply chain, which was one of the most challenging we saw.

”Issues with plastic ancillary items had more to do with manufacturers being understaffed and not being able to keep up with orders, he notes. While restaurants experienced issues with stocking enough of their inventory earlier on in the pandemic, it’s now transitioned to feeling the effects from staffing challenges hitting broadliner and supplier partners.

“There’s a greater incident potential for new people at a broadliner pulling product or mispicking, so we could get romaine instead of spring mix,” Robison says. “We’re going to have to continue to work on this industry side by side with our broadliners to understand what they’re facing, yet also hold them accountable for what we need from them to take care of our guests.”

Bolstering employee benefits is no longer a trend, but a thoughtful necessity

According to the National Restaurant Association, no other industry has faced a longer road to reaching a full employment recovery. As of April 2022, eating and drinking places were still down 794,000 jobs, or 6.4 percent below pre-pandemic employment levels.

Rothschild thinks the restaurant industry has a retention issue, not necessarily a hiring issue. For him, the key to increasing retention rates in restaurants is hiring exceptional general managers as leaders, who inspire employees in a fun environment.

“They want to work in a really nice place where they’re appreciated for the work they do and have great team members to work with. When I see great GMs who know how to take care of their team and run a restaurant, they don’t have problems hiring or retaining people, because good people want to work for good people,” Rothschild says.

“Make sure you have great leaders and people running your restaurants, and staffing should help itself,” Rothschild adds, though he admits there are areas of the country within smaller population pockets where companies need to be creative about recruiting and sometimes offer unusual incentives. “One prong is attracting people to get them to apply, and the other is taking really good care of them when they do decide to work for you.

To read the full story from QSR click here:

Franchise Times Names 40 Smartest-Growing Franchises

By In the News

Dec. 28, 2022

#5 Slim Chickens

Fast-casual chicken restaurants

A lot has changed since Tom Gordon and Greg Smart co-founded their chicken chain in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2003, and then began franchising in 2013. System sales grew 118.7 percent from 2019 through 2021, to $265 million, and units grew 46.7 percent, to 132. But “there are a lot of things that are the same. I still feel so responsible for all 8,000 people that work for the brand,” said Gordon, CEO. “It’s nice to be in a position of financial strength versus scrambling for the first decade. That’s allowed us to do a lot of great things for our company, our franchisees.” Asked about his philosophy toward driving sustainable growth, he said, “It’s a big question. It’s hard to put that into a short motto. I’ll tell you a couple things I talk about all the time, with my team. Because we’re not as big as some of our competitors we have to go fast. We have to go as fast as we possibly can without taking big risks. And how do you balance speed and giant risk? It’s with using data, utilizing franchisee intel, utilizing local professionals” to put “great restaurants in great places as fast as we possibly can, and get market share.” A mobile loyalty app developed in 2019, coincidentally before COVID, paid off big time for the brand. A minority investment from 10 Point Capital in July 2019 helped shore up the balance sheet. But Slim Chickens’ biggest achievements go beyond single tactics. “Personally, we always think about how we want to be the franchisors the franchisees love, and not have an adversarial relationship, as so many end up having when the company’s been around a long time. Honesty and integrity are the only currencies we have,” Gordon said. “We’re proud of it. We’re proud of the perseverance we’ve shown. We’re proud that we have a great group of franchisees that I think are happy with the brand.”  

To see the full ranking on Franchise Times click here: