How Cowboy Chicken plans to smoke the competition

Nov. 23, 2012 | by Valerie Killifer

In 2003 Cowboy Chicken president Sean Kennedy and his partner, Malcolm Menter, purchased the Dallas-based chain with the intent on revitalizing the struggling brand. Today, the restaurant concept has grown to seven locations throughout the Dallas region, and Kennedy has set his sights set on locations outside of the Lone Star State.

"I think we have a great brand. I think we have great food and I think we have a great team," Kennedy said.

Cowboy Chicken was launched in 1981, by founder Phil Sanders with a focus on serving fresh rotisserie chicken and additional menu items such as enchiladas, twice baked potatoes and other made-from-scratch side dishes. While some of the menu items were removed during the concept's renovation, top sellers such as the enchiladas, twice baked potatoes, chicken salad and peach cobbler remained.

"We kept what we thought was good," Kennedy said.

In the nine months following its purchase, Kennedy worked open to close every day to rebuild the chain's connection to the community and its guests. And in 2009, he launched a franchise program to grow and develop the concept throughout Texas. There are now four franchise locations in the state and three company-owned stores. While the most recent opening was in Denton, Texas, it's the Longview store that has Kennedy thinking the brand would do well in other markets.

"I think it's tough to grow our brand when nobody outside of Dallas knows it," Kennedy said. "Longview was the first store that proved to me we could go outside of Dallas."

With the franchise plan in place and the confidence needed to expose the concept to other markets, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Oklahoma City are some of the areas Kennedy is considering for expansion.

"Now that we have franchised stores up and running well, I feel like it's my responsibility to grow the company," Kennedy said. "My goal from day one was to open a handful of stores and then franchise. We're going to grow both ways, but I couldn't do both at the same time. Now with the franchise plan in place, we can focus on corporate-owned stores."

Fort Worth also has been pegged as the next ideal location for a company-owned restaurant although exactly where will depend on real estate opportunities.

"With the right brand, the right people and the right real estate, growth can happen anywhere," Kennedy said.

Kennedy, whose partner passed in 2008, is now working with Malcolm's wife, Gillian Menter, who serves as company CEO, to further the company's growth.

"She continues to provide the necessary financing and long-term vision that Malcolm instituted in the rebirth of Cowboy Chicken," Kennedy said.

Topics: Operations Management

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