Cowboy Chicken Goes Back to the Basics

Creating and sustaining a successful fast casual restaurant is becoming more and more of a challenge for business operators today. The market is oversaturated, and differentiating your restaurant from similar concepts can be complicated and time-consuming.

Cowboy Chicken seems to have unearthed the right recipe. The chain specializes in all-natural, wood-fired rotisserie chicken—unlike most chains, which offer fried chicken—paired with a wide variety of homestyle sides.

Founded in 1981, the premium fast casual restaurant initially struggled to find its footing. However, soon after Cowboy Chicken CEO Sean Kennedy joined the business in 2002, the company began to thrive: when Kennedy was hired, the company had dwindled to only one location. Today, the company boasts 26 total units nationwide.

“We’ve really focused on consistent execution of the basics: delicious food, genuine hospitality, and clean restaurants,” says Kennedy. “Our goal is to serve the best chicken on the planet to every guest.”

Customer needs are also changing. “Consumers continue to be attracted to something that’s different and exciting,” notes Kennedy. “The consumer is shifting to a higher expectation of delivered items and the convenience within.”

And cultivating an enjoyable work culture behind the counter is essential to ensuring that those needs are consistently met. “It takes a team to truly make a brand successful,” adds Kennedy. “Having the right team is critical to growth… you have to create a culture where people want to come to work for you and they feel value.”

For Kennedy, that means filling the team with a combination of workers who know the brand and its history, as well as experienced outsiders who approach the work without any predetermined bias and boundaries.

Check out the podcast above to hear more about how Cowboy Chicken is confronting the current challenges in the industry head-on, and what lies ahead for the fast casual chain.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Olivia Aleguas

Producer