Restaurant Development & Design

NOV-DEC 2018

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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Peer to Peer Q&A with Sam Rothschild COO of Slim Chickens F ifteen years ago, Slim Chickens opened its doors with a single store in Fayetteville, Ark. In the years since, it's gradually grown to 75 locations in 14 states and this year opened its •rst international locations — in Kuwait and the United Kingdom. The concept's growth strategy now includes nontraditional locations. Just this quarter, Slim Chickens will open three units in stadiums, one on the University of Arkansas campus and one in Kuwait International Airport. Two will also open on military bases in early 2019. Slim Chickens has more than 250 locations in development and plans to have more than 80 open by the end of this year and 600 by 2025. "Our development in Kuwait is opportunistic at best, but we'll see another restaurant or two there next year, and the same in London," says COO Sam Rothschild. "In Kuwait, we'll next open at the airport, and a couple of million people a year will go through that terminal. I think we'll get a lot of brand exposure." Here, Rothschild shares his per- spective on growth as well as on expan- sion into foreign and noncommercial locations. Tell us about your background, pre-Slim Chickens. SR: I've been in the restaurant industry since the late '70s, starting as a young kid. So, I've been doing this my whole life. I'm a Johnson and Wales culinary grad. I started my corporate journey in the late '80s with Bennigan's and spent 13 years there, and that's where I had my initial growth spurt. I went from run- ning one restaurant to forming and start- ing an international division. And I spent about 80 percent of my year outside the U.S., trying to populate our brands around the world. I then went to Tony Roma's as the chief operating of•cer. Tony Roma's was in 25 countries, so my skill set lent itself to what we were trying to accomplish. By chance, I met some executives at Apple- bee's. They'd just opened the director of franchise operations position. When the largest casual dining concept on the plan- et asked, I couldn't turn it down. I spent eight years there on the franchise side, but casual dining has been on the decline for a decade. And it just so happens I then found the Slim Chickens guys. What attracted you to working at Slim Chickens? SR: I came to give an opinion to the founders, Greg Smart and Tom Gordon, and to Seth Jensen, the CFO, and we liked each other so much and I liked the brand so much that I came on board. And where they are headed with the concept in the fast-casual chicken space seemed to work very well and was attractive to me. You are planning a lot of new locations between now and 2025. Why so much growth? And where? SR: We have spent a lot of time and investment in the people that enable us to do this. I believe we've set ourselves up to support company and franchise growth, and we understand what it takes to support people. We've got the systems in place, and people are starting to recognize us more and more, and we're well placed in a category that only has a handful of players in it. By Amanda Baltazar 2 6 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8

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