Foodable Labs Highlights Top 8 Chicken Concepts

Chicken concepts are a proven safe bet for fast food and fast casual chains. And while the plant-based market is certainly booming, chicken remains one of the most efficient sources of protein in terms of its carbon footprint.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

A recent Foodable Labs report showcases the top ten chicken concepts currently on the market based on CSR (Consumer Sentiment Rating). And which companies are in the top five?

1. Chick-fil-A

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Chick-fil-A is the most beloved restaurant in the U.S. by a landslide. The company is also only behind McDonald’s and Starbucks in terms of total sales per fiscal year: its latest year totaled $10.5 billion in sales.

Founded in 1946, the fast food restaurant is best known for its chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets. The company’s latest sandwich offering is the Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich. While Chick-fil-A does not offer much in the way of plant-based or health-conscious options, the chain was the first fast food restaurant to eliminate trans fats from its food and to commit to only using chicken raised without antibiotics.

Despite its positive consumer satisfaction rating, the chain has dealt with some controversy since 2012 due to its Christian origins and continued donations to perceived anti-LGBT groups. Chick-fil-A will likely need to better address this issue as the company moves forward.

2. PDQ

PDQ stands for People Dedicated to Quality. According to a 2016 report, the company’s workers topples Chick-fil-A employees when it comes to being the most likely to have a “pleasant demeanor.” The up-and-coming fast food restaurant is committed to providing fresh food, infusing each dish with a personal touch, and cultivating teams filled with happy workers who want to be there.

The chain was established in 2009 by Bob Basham, one of the co-founders of Outback Steakhouse, and Nick Reader, the CFO of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The menu is composed of chicken tenders, chicken nuggets, salads, sandwiches, bowls, and a number of unique sauces. All food is “just made”: every meal is created in-house with hormone- and steroid-free chicken that has never been frozen.

PDQ does have to grapple with some growing pains. The majority of its 65 locations are in Florida, and the fast food restaurant was recently forced to close three of its Oklahoma locations. Still, PDQ is opening its first New York branch in July, and a new restaurant is in construction in Evesham, New Jersey.

3. Slim Chickens

Known for its wings and hand-breaded, all-natural chicken tenders, Slim Chickens prioritizes fresh, flavorful ingredients. Chicken is also always cooked to order using soybean oil. One of the chain’s latest offerings is Devil’s Smoke Shaken Wings, which utilizes a new sauce with a barbecue base and honey and habanero flavoring.

Slim Chickens has an interesting history. First established in 2003 in a now-defunct Arkansas sushi restaurant, the fast casual restaurant chain swiftly expanded to multiple locations in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The chain has since gone international, establishing successful branches in Salmiya, Kuwait as well as London and Cardiff.

Looking ahead? The chain seems intent on continuing to build its brand throughout the UK and the American south. The company currently has 69 locations throughout the U.S. and abroad, and just opened another location in Birmingham, England shopping centre Grand Central. Another Mississippi location is also in the works and set to open this July.

4. Flyrite Chicken

Flyrite Chicken might just be the fast casual chicken-focused dining chain that modern consumers are looking for. While hoping to compete with the likes of Chick-fil-A, the Flyrite menu also caters to the growing plant-based market with chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, wraps, and salads.

Entrepreneur Kevin Warden founded the chain in 2016, hoping to appeal to meat-lovers and vegetarians and vegans. All chicken is raised without antibiotics, and no artificial ingredients are used by the restaurant. Customers who dine in can also enjoy a beer or wine by the glass with their meal.

The chain currently maintains three Texas locations, its latest restaurant opening this year at Austin Airport.

5. Raising Cane's

Raising Cane’s is all about chicken fingers. The menu keeps it simple with four combos to choose from: The Box Combo, The 3 Finger Combo, The Caniac Combo, and The Sandwich Combo. Chicken is never frozen and always cooked fresh with canola oil.

Raising Cane’s has been in business since 1996, but the franchise truly took off in the late 2000s. In 2008, the company had about 50 locations throughout Louisiana: today, the company maintains over 400 restaurants in 26 states. Like Slim Chickens, Raising Cane’s has also expanded internationally to Kuwait, as well as in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Lebanon.

Raising Cane’s will open its second and third Tucson, Arizona restaurants in July and October of this year. Todd Graves, the founder of Raising Cane’s, was also named one of the top CEOs to work for by Glassdoor.

According to a recent Foodable Labs study, fast casual is set to garner 100 billion in sales by 2025. The Top 100 Fast Casual Innovators Report found that consumers in the 25-34 demographic are driving this change with a growing preference nationwide for eating food away from home.

Top 8 Chicken Concepts

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