In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 chicken franchise concepts for 2023 that drive the growth of this dynamic industry and provide insights into the important factors to consider when evaluating chicken franchise opportunities and investment opportunities.
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Food trends may come and go, but one contender has stood the test of time while continuing to ruffle feathers with its versatility and palatable charm: the ever-humble chicken.
From fried chicken sandwiches to wings and tenders, the growing demand for poultry has sparked a wave of new chicken franchise concepts and restaurant opportunities for entrepreneurs to capitalize on the most-consumed protein in the country.
The increase in demand for chicken is nothing new; beef has been steadily declining in consumer demand due to research linking red meat consumption with increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. The past few years have seen the rise of plant-based alternative meat products – mostly targeting beef analogs – in an effort to reduce red meat consumption.
When the National Chicken Council began recording per capita chicken consumption in 1960, Americans were eating an average of 28 pounds of chicken and 63 pounds of beef annually. Over the years, chicken per capita consumption has continually increased while beef consumption has steadily decreased.
In its early estimates for 2023, the Council predicts consumers will eat nearly 102 pounds of chicken and 57 pounds of beef per person.
With carnivorous consumers hungry for something deliciously different, chicken has stepped up to the plate and flown the coop. For franchisors, that’s nothing to balk at – they, too, can leverage the increase in chicken consumption to delight their customers with fresh takes on nostalgic favorites, new international concepts, and enhanced flavor capability via sauces.
Chicken, it seems, has scratched its way through the pecking order to rule the roost.
The food service industry is among the strongest in terms of economic output: forecast to reach $997 billion in sales in 2023, the market presents an abundant opportunity. With pandemic restrictions lifted, consumers are returning to the restaurant experience, as evidenced by 84% of respondents that stated that going out is a better use of their time than cooking and cleaning up.
In turn, the chicken franchise scene has seen remarkable growth. As part of the behemoth food service industry, the market for fast-food chicken franchises in the US is a chicken in every pot with an estimated value of $55.6 billion. The market has seen a growth rate of 1.1% over the past year alone, following an 8.4% uptick in growth over the past five years.
Chicken-focused franchise concepts are more popular than ever, creating an overnight sensation in demand and offerings. Over the past five years, more than 40 new fast-food chicken concepts have entered the franchising market, paving the way for new brands to compete for market share as part of this powerful trend.
The demand for chicken is driving menu item innovations as brands continue to compete in this growing market. Chicken sandwiches, chicken fingers, and chicken nuggets are among the most popular items, and franchise concepts are responding to the demand with high-quality food, innovative flavor options, and sharp operations.
While it was once the battle of burgers, we are now in the age of the battle of the chicken sandwich. Long-established and beloved brands are debuting new menu offerings left and right, while a new wave of franchise operators is embracing other trends like international flavors, healthier meal options, eco-friendly items, and dishes tailored to takeout to augment their chicken concepts.
With nearly every chicken franchise system featuring a fried chicken sandwich as a menu centerpiece, it really just boils down to offering a quality chicken sandwich with a flavor-filled sauce. Consumers care more about the main dish than the sides, and rightfully so. Franchisors can satiate growing consumer demand with flavor variety, international perspectives, and imaginative takes on nostalgic classics.
For chicken concept franchisors, now is the time to make a full offering in the segment. As consumer demand for chicken continues to increase, franchise systems can take advantage of high demand by adding more chicken offerings while embracing lower food costs.
Coincidentally, as poultry supplies have improved, prices for chicken breasts, thighs, and wings have decreased, bringing relief to chicken franchisors. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the price for chicken breasts has seen a 70% reduction since its peak in the US, a key factor in driving more concepts to step up their chicken offerings while taking advantage of more attractive margins.
What’s more, savvy operators and franchisors are embracing the new normal as temporary fixes developed during the pandemic have firmly taken root with consumers. By offering expanded delivery services, providing outdoor dining options, and investing in contemporary technology, operators can cater to more consumers while boosting their bottom lines.
Additionally, operators have harnessed other aspects of the new normal to entice customers. This is accomplished by presenting engaging offerings at all hours, creating more value deals, offering flexible pricing, developing multi-course meal bundles, and more.
For prospective franchisees looking to get in on the growing craze, don’t be a chicken: this is a great opportunity to break into a booming industry and embrace a trend with staying power and solid return on investment. In short, the industry is booming and isn’t showing signs of slowing anytime soon. Consumer demand will continue to increase as franchise systems expand.
At IDS, we provide integrated marketing solutions and strategies for a wide range of franchise concepts. While we don’t put all our eggs in one basket, we’ve established long-standing relationships with quite a few chicken franchisors, helping drive chicken franchise growth.
Let’s take a look at some of the top chicken franchise opportunities for entrepreneurs to consider investing in for 2023:
|Brand Logo||Brand Name|
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
Founded in 1972, Popeyes has built one of the most successful quick-service restaurant (QSR) franchises upon rich Cajun and Creole flavors. Unmistakably Louisiana-inspired, the brand embraces its history and culinary traditions while distinguishing itself with an authentic and unique New Orleans-style menu featuring spicy chicken, chicken tenders, and other regional items.
Popeyes offers a strong franchise opportunity complete with broad reach and decades of experience. The brand provides top-notch franchisee support in all sectors, including marketing, food, and customer services, in addition to instant brand name recognition, increased visibility, and customer interest.
To open a new restaurant with Popeyes, investors can estimate spending $383,500 to $3,545,800 for the initial investment.
|brand logo||brand name|
Focused almost exclusively on high-quality buffalo-style chicken wings, Wingstop has positioned itself as The Wing Experts by putting flavor first. Opening its doors in 1994, the brand quickly became a fan favorite thanks to its proprietary recipes, outstanding food, and superior customer service. The brand began offering franchises in 1997, becoming one of the fastest-growing concepts in the country.
Wingstop offers excellent corporate support, plentiful training and educational resources, a relatively low cost, territory protections, low staffing requirements, and more as part of its franchise opportunity. Franchisees enjoy site selection, lease cost negotiation, grand opening, and ongoing support, as well as marketing assistance.
The brand offers two different franchising options: single-unit and multi-unit. For either option, investors can estimate spending $315,310 to $948,080 on their initial investment.
|brand logo||brand name|
Originating in central Texas in the late 1960s, Golden Chick has become a leading quick-service chicken restaurant. With over 50 years of franchising experience and success, the brand prides itself on wholesome and satisfying heritage menu items as the originator of Golden Tenders® while remaining mindful of the potential that the latest dining trends can hold.
Aside from its longevity, highly recognizable brand name, and beloved menu, Golden Chick offers a franchise opportunity with a business model that provides many advantages to owners, including competitive start-up costs, superb ground-up or conversion construction design, strong marketing, and advertising support programs.
The brand enables franchisees to choose from three unique concepts, allowing them to develop a restaurant that best suits the needs of their community while staying on budget. For freestanding, ground-up locations, investors can estimate spending $895,890 to $1,414,500 on their initial investment. For a freestanding conversion location, the initial investment range is between $438,450 and $957,500 and for prototypical end-cap restaurant locations, the estimated franchise cost is $470,450 to $946,400.
|brand logo||brand name|
Church’s Texas Chicken
As the brand surpasses 70 years of operation, it’s no surprise that Church’s Texas Chicken has become one of the largest quick-service chicken chains in the world. Starting in 1952 across the street from the Alamo, Church’s firmly cemented its original Texas roots with bold, hand-crafted flavor, and they don’t plan on changing that any time soon.
Church’s franchise opportunity presents investors with integrated support at every stage. The franchise system business model incorporates operations, marketing, and technology support to help franchisees see maximum return on investment. The brand’s team of industry experts provides franchisees with valuable tools and resources, including national media marketing, a domestic online delivery system, accelerated communication via streamlined tech, and more, all designed to keep guests happy and coming back for more.
The brand offers several franchise concepts to invest in. For a freestanding Blaze 1700, the initial investment ranges from $1,296,225 to $1,464,335. For the freestanding Blaze 1400, investors can estimate spending between $1,192,202 and $1,406,509. And for an end cap unit, the estimated franchise cost range is $676,500 to $1,016,300.
|brand logo||brand name|
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
No other brand is as synonymous with fried chicken as Kentucky Fried Chicken. The world’s most popular chicken restaurant chain was founded in 1930 and has been franchising since 1952. Pioneered by the “Colonel” Harland Sanders, the brand’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices has dominated the QSR industry, selling sixty million buckets of chicken annually in the US alone.
With nearly 75 years of franchise history, it’s hard to find a franchisor with more experience than KFC. The brand prides itself on its classic comfort food and commitment to value and serving local communities. It’s a brand that continues to innovate by adding new menu items like chicken sandwiches, tenders, and fries.
KFC’s franchise opportunity offers industry-leading incentives for new development, flexible asset formats and designs, digital ordering capabilities, award-winning marketing, and strong unit economics, offering several restaurant formats, including traditional, non-traditional, and in-line restaurants. For new-build, ground-up construction, investors can estimate a $1,442,600 to $2,771,550 initial investment, with a re-open or remodel estimated between $1,008,600 and $2,221,500.
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Slim Chickens maintains a simple mission: make the best hand-breaded chicken tenders using only 100% all-natural premium tenderloins and the freshest ingredients. Founded in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2003, the brand offers chicken tenders, wings, and wraps cooked to order and served with house dipping sauces.
Slim Chickens is known for being more than a quick meal, combining craveable food, a cool vibe, and an extra touch of Southern hospitality as the company’s culture. The brand offers excellent branding, strong unit economics, and a passionate executive team to position franchisees for success.
Slim Chickens provides best-in-class support with site selection, design, construction, training, marketing, operations, real estate, and financing/accounting.
To open a new restaurant with Slim Chickens, investors can estimate spending $1,307,000 to $4,052,000 for the initial investment.
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Beyond its unique name, Bojangles stands out by existing simultaneously across three popular categories: quick service, chicken, and breakfast. For more than 45 years, the brand has offered Southern know-how when it comes to best-in-class fried chicken and putting franchisees on the right path. Their efficient business model utilizes convenience and quality to entice guests to keep coming back and help franchisees capitalize on growing industry demand.
As part of their franchise model, franchisees enjoy strong performance through all three primary dayparts; off-premises dining to maximize sales, labor, and workflow; and high-quality food with authentic flavor. One of the brand’s unique value propositions is having built a reputation for quality by using in-house recipes and fresh ingredients with no compromises, shortcuts, or microwaves. This includes made-from-scratch biscuits baked every 20 minutes and their hallmark Legendary Iced Tea®.
Bojangles offers two franchise concepts for franchisees to choose from: Express and Traditional. The estimated initial investment for Express locations ranges from $895,890 to $1,414,500, and for Traditional, $1,060,400 to $3,020,750.
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Since 1990, Zaxby’s has been serving made-to-order chicken fingers, wings, sandwiches, and salads with Southern hospitality and a modern twist. The brand has since become beloved for its Chicken Fingerz™, wings, and legendary Zax Sauce.
Zaxby’s combines great food, a comfortable vibe, and fun people that care about each other, which translates into customer loyalty. The brand provides franchisees with marketing support, location development assistance, menu expansion, a robust initial training program, and ongoing business coaching.
To open a new restaurant with Zaxby’s, investors can estimate spending $501,700 to $950,200 for the initial investment. All of Zaxby’s locations are full-service restaurants in freestanding buildings that provide in-store seating and drive-thru windows.
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Buffalo Wild Wings
Wings. Beer. Sports.® What’s not to love about B-Dubs? Buffalo Wild Wings has grown from two hungry guys to the largest sports bar brand in the US, with over 1,200 locations. The brand stands out because, unlike other restaurants aiming to get customers in and out quickly, Buffalo Wild Wings wants you to stick around, enjoying their transformative restaurant design, best-in-class food and drink, and innovative sports-watching experiences.
Since 1982, Buffalo Wild Wings has embraced a welcoming neighborhood atmosphere where game time morphs into stories worth telling. With 20 signature sauces and seasonings, there’s something for everyone on their menu. The brand aims to be a premier operator and franchisor by providing franchisees with best-in-class support across all areas, including restaurant development planning, design and construction, operations training, marketing and branding, and supply chain expertise.
Buffalo Wild Wings offers a variety of franchise concept designs, including non-freestanding, conversion of an existing site, new freestanding, and non-traditional locations. The total initial investment for The Great American Sports Bar ranges from $2,481,500 to $4,604,800.
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Hooters is a true American original, boasting a crave-able high-quality menu, reasonable prices, and a vibrant restaurant prototype. The legacy brand is approaching 40 years of franchise experience, built upon the strong foundation of its world-famous Hooters Girl hospitality.
The brand has come a long way from its start in October 1983, with over 430 locations in 28 countries and 250 corporately held locations. Franchisees can take advantage of their worldwide recognition in addition to several dedicated support teams: franchise development, franchise operations, construction and design, training, marketing, supply chain, and product development.
Hooters offers several franchise concepts, as they are adaptable, including freestanding, conversion of an existing freestanding restaurant, shopping center end caps, street-front retail locations, and highly trafficked captive audience venues. The estimated initial investment range for new build locations is $2,748,300 to $4,100,000, with the estimated initial investment for conversion locations ranging from $1,258,300 to $2,280,000.
|Franchise Name||Franchise Fee||Royalty Fee||Advertising Fee||Total Number of Franchise Units (as of 2022)||3-Year Franchise Growth Rate||Estimated Total Initial Investment Range|
|Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen||$50,000||5%||4%||3,851||21.6%||$383,500 - $3,545,800|
|Wingstop||$20,000||6%||6%||1,873||43.7%||$315,310 - $948,080|
|Golden Chick||$30,000||4%||3%||209||15.5%||$982,450 - $1,702,500|
|Bojangles||$20,000 - $35,000||4%||2%||773||1.2%||$577,000 - $3,020,750|
|KFC||$45,000||4-5%||5%||26,498||14.7%||$1,440,600 - $3,163,550|
|Slim Chickens||$15,000||5%||3%||162||92.9%||$1,307,000 - $4,052,000|
|Zaxby’s||$35,000||6%||3-4.5%||912||1.6%||$501,700 - $950,200|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||$25,000||5%||3.25%||1,258||-1%||$2,481,500 - $4,604,800|
|Church’s Texas Chicken||$15,000||5%||5%||1,504||-3%||$681,500 - $1,543,117|
|Hooters||$75,000||5%||2%||366||-11%||$1,438,250 - $5,231,250|
Data collected from each respective brand’s page:
“Chicken Franchises - Page 1.” Entrepreneur, 2023.
There’s a lot for investors and entrepreneurs to consider when not only deciding whether franchising is the right choice for them but then also choosing which franchise opportunity is best suited to their goals. Ultimately, it’s important to review several concepts to determine which option best suits your capabilities and objectives, so you can make an informed decision that appeases all your personal and financial requirements.
Prospective franchise owners should review all relevant franchise information, including each brand’s Franchise Disclosure Document, as part of the due diligence process. You’ll want to keep in mind your personal preferences, especially when it comes to how present you’d like to be as an owner (versus taking on more responsibility as an owner/operator) and how excited you are about the concept.
A large factor you’ll want to consider is your financial qualifications. Each franchise concept has a unique set of financial requirements you’ll have to meet, so you must be prepared to conduct an in-depth review of your finances to ensure you meet the necessary monetary qualifications. If you require financing options and the franchisor doesn’t provide direct financing, you’ll want to determine which options are available to you.
Some of the key factors you’ll want to consider as you review chicken franchise concepts include:
With chicken franchises on the rise, it’s a great time to consider investing in any one of the top ten chicken franchise opportunities we’ve highlighted above. These ten companies are time-honored franchise brands that provide exemplary franchisor support and can help you leverage your investment to achieve your goals.
As chicken consumption continues to increase, the demand for chicken franchise restaurants will undoubtedly continue to rise. It’s your time to capitalize on the growing demand for chicken, and a chicken franchise opportunity can help you do just that with the backing and support of a leading franchisor.
At the end of the day, determining the best franchise opportunity for you can significantly impact your success. You’ll want to choose one that meets all of your criteria and that you’d be an ideal candidate for. You’ll also want to make sure it excites you and aligns with your personal interests because becoming a franchise owner is more than just a job; it’s a path toward building the lifestyle you want.
It’s important to take the time to consider not only the factors we’ve outlined above but also all available resources when it comes to your qualifications and capabilities. Your success is inherently tied to your franchisor’s success, and a good franchisor can make all the difference.
If your chicken franchise concept is looking for a complete franchise digital marketing solution, turn to IDS.
With over ten years of experience in the franchise industry, we offer full-service digital marketing services that help franchisors find the right buyers.
IDS can create a marketing strategy to help you turn your franchise development site into a magnet for ideal prospective franchise candidates while growing your brand’s digital presence and outranking your competitors on search engines with a robust website. We use a multi-pronged, customized approach to address your specific goals and objectives.
Our experienced marketing team can help you get the most out of your franchise marketing efforts by providing the tools, strategy, and expertise you need to grow your franchise brand and achieve the results you're looking for. We work with franchisors and franchisees to provide customized digital marketing campaigns that are proven to drive franchisee sales through a strong digital presence.
IDS features a full suite of digital marketing products and services to suit any franchise concept, including content creation, search engine optimization, social media advertising, website design, reputation management, and much more. You can count on our experienced franchise development marketers as an extension of your team.
If you’re looking for multi-location marketing, we can help with that too! We’ve assisted countless clients with specialized multi-location marketing strategies to further their business growth.
Our approach to driving sustainable online growth for multi-location brands includes high-level brand strategies, effective marketing plans, specific advertising goals, local SEO best practices, social media management, and more.
IDS is your expert team for attracting highly qualified franchisees to your concept, making their new locations a success for both themselves and your brand. Let our scalable, fully integrated digital marketing solutions elevate your franchise growth with a strategy that will bring your brand name to new heights!
Are you interested in learning more about how IDS can help grow your chicken franchise concept? Get in touch with a member of our team today!