By LISA MONTI
Construction will begin soon on the first of six restaurant locations for a franchise new to Mississippi that promises “life changing chicken.”
Father and son franchisees Ricky Bagwell and David Bagwell will build the first Slim Chickens store in Ridgeland. Two more are planned in the Jackson area, two in the Hattiesburg area and one in Oxford.
David Bagwell said Slim Chickens co-founder Greg Smart was a student at Ole Miss when he got the idea for the Slim Chickens concept.
The niche is fresh chicken tenders and wings cooked to order and served with made-from-scratch dipping sauces. The chicken has a light, crispy breading, Bagwell said, “like fried Mississippi chicken.”
The “Delta Classic Sides” have a Southern slant: mac and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, fries and fried pickles, okra and mushrooms, breaded as you order. There’s also a catering menu available for the chicken, sauces, box meals and sides.
The Bagwells have been in the food service business for 30 years and own 23 Sonic restaurants in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida with their business partners. David Bagwell’s grandfather opened his first Sonic 30 years ago, and his father, Ricky, followed him into the business as a young adult. David joined the family business after college.
He will step away from the Sonic franchises to take on the operations side of Slim Chickens, which started in Fayetteville, Ark., in 2003 and has grown to more than 40 locations in 10 states. The chain has plans to expand nationwide with a goal of 600 restaurants in the next 10 years.
“It’s a fairly young concept compared to what we are accustomed to with Sonic Drive-in,” Bagwell said. What sets it apart is the emphasis of freshness. “Every product out of the kitchen is prepared daily by hand,” he said. “It’s a fantastic product.”
The restaurants will have table service as well as drive-through service. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Bagwell said. “You get fast table service, we refill your drinks and you don’t have to bus your own table. Customers are served in less than four minutes.”
Bagwell said his family likes the simplicity of the all-fresh Slim Chickens operation and the quality of food. “We feel we have the best product, and have tried all of the competitors,” he said.
He expects to hire about 50 employees at each store which will generate approximately $1.8 million in annual revenue per location. Bagwell said managers become business partners in the local stores.
The Bagwells said building out their stores over the next five years is the first phase for their Slim Chickens franchise. “After that, we fully expect another significant development agreement in the state,” he said. Tupelo and the Mississippi Coast are likely areas for the expansion.
If you’re wondering about the restaurant name, the Slim chicken mascot featured in the logo holding a guitar is the company’s nod to “the life changing legends of the South—the musicians, the storytellers, the food and the soul…the eternally cool,” according to the company’s marketing material.
The corporation’s “truly life-changing chicken” tagline is rooted in the positive feedback from their customers and has evolved into its philanthropic arm, which supports community organizations and charity events that feed the needy and help children. The company has partnered with national charitable organizations, helped with local nonprofit fundraising and donated food to community events for more than 10 years.
“It goes along with what we want to do – branch out into the community and try to make it better,” Bagwell said.