Emerging Brands

5 things to know about: Southern Classic Chicken

How a 35-year-old fried chicken chain is getting prepped for franchising.
Southern Classic Chicken
Photo courtesy Southern Classic Chicken

Buzzworthy Brands is a bi-weekly Restaurant Business podcast and feature highlighting innovative growth brands. Listen to the conversation with Southern Classic Chicken Director of Brand Development Nick Binnings here.

Southern Classic Chicken started in Northern Louisiana 35 years ago and has since grown to 17 units. The low-tech concept has developed a loyal following with its consistent menu of bone-in fried chicken and simple sides like Cajun rice, mashed potatoes and apple pie. A couple of years ago, though, the family that started the chain decided to give franchising a try. They’d tried it about a decade ago, with unsuccessful results, so they wanted to be better prepared this go-round. They brought in a couple of experts to help. One of them, Nick Binnings, is the chain’s director of brand development. Binnings has worked for the past couple of years getting Southern Classic Chicken’s brandings, systems and operations in place to ready the brand for franchising.

Here are five more things to know about Southern Classic Chicken:

  1. The concept is a family-owned business, with the second generation now steering the ship. “They’ve always wanted to grow and expand it,” Binnings said.
  2. Southern Classic Chicken was prepared for the pandemic—even though it didn’t set out to do so. The chain has always had drive-thrus and walk-up windows. Just five of its restaurants have dining rooms. Before the crisis, it thought about operating with the two different prototypes. Now, though, new stores will only have the drive-thrus and walk-up windows. “It allowed us to say, ‘Wow, we do not need sit down,’” Binnings said. The chain reported a sales boost of 20% during 2020, he said.
  3. Binnings sees preparing for franchising as a concentric circle. “You have to start in the middle and start wagon-wheeling your way out,” he said. Build a solid business, trademark the name, focus on quality and consistency. “Focus as a whole is the absolute key to growing a multi-unit concept,” he said.
  4. Labor has become a major challenge recently. Southern Classic Chicken has bumped up its starting salary and has added incentives for employees to earn more. “The labor is killing us,” he said. “It’s definitely putting a strain on the system. On the flip side, adjusting the hourly wage is a positive. I don’t view that as a negative. The whole restaurant industry is going to have to assume the wage and cost of labor is going up.”
  5. The chain hasn’t really concerned itself much with technology or third-party delivery, though that might change. “Tech is something we’re growing into right now,” Binnings said. “As of now, it hasn’t been as big a driver and a pusher as (it is for) a lot of up-and-coming brands.”

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