Emerging Brands

5 things to know about Roots Chicken Shak

How a small-but-growing duck fat-fried chicken concept wants to change the face of franchising.
Tiffany Derry

Buzzworthy Brands is a bi-weekly Restaurant Business podcast and feature highlighting innovative growth brands. Listen to the conversation with Roots Chicken Shak’s founders Chef Tiffany Derry and her business partner, Tom Foley.

Roots Chicken Shak has two units, in Plano and Austin, Texas, right now. The restaurants themselves are tiny, but Chef Tiffany Derry and her business partner, Tom Foley, have grand plans to change the franchising landscape for entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups.

Derry and Foley are working to create a business model that is easy to step into for hard-working people who may not have the capital to get involved with a traditional restaurant franchise.

Derry said it is past time to shake up an industry that has been dominated by white men.

Roots Chicken Shaks are just over 300 square feet and are known for frying everything, even the croutons for the Caesar salad, in duck fat.

Here are five more things to know about Roots Chicken Shak:

  1. A trip to France years ago influenced the food Derry cooks at Roots. “I had a duck fat-fried french fry and it changed my life,” Derry said. She fries her chicken, and everything else at the restaurants in duck fat.
  2. Roots Chicken Shak’s operation is focused on efficiency. The restaurants are just over 300 square feet and have only nine menu items.
  3. Derry and Foley are slated to open Roots Southern Table in May. It’s a full-service restaurant, with a patio, bar and much more expansive menu than the Shacks.
  4. The two are working to streamline the operations of Roots Chicken Shak before opening the concept up to franchising, with an eye toward working with women and minority business owners. “How can we create economic ways to close that equity gap?” Foley asked.

5. Representation matters in the restaurant industry, Derry said. “I never saw a woman chef,” she said. “I never saw a Black-owned restaurant. I went to culinary school and I never saw one person who looked like me doing what I want to do … There’s so many talented people who don’t get an opportunity or don’t believe opportunity exists for them. We’re creating the model to show them they can own whatever it is they want to.”

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the restaurant's name.

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