Buzzworthy Brands is a bi-weekly Restaurant Business podcast and feature highlighting innovative growth brands. Listen to the conversation with Viva Chicken CEO Gerald Pulsinelli.
Twelve-unit fast casual Viva Chicken specializes in Peruvian style marinated chicken cooked over a charcoal-fire rotisserie. The brand started in 2013 in Charlotte N.C. and grew, thanks to funding from a group led by restaurateur Dennis Thompson. Thompson founded Firebirds WoodFired Grill, among other concepts.
Gerald Pulsinelli joined Viva Chicken in 2019, after working with Thompson for nearly two decades at Firebirds. That year, Viva made a number of tech upgrades that would serve the concept well during the pandemic.
Please listen to this Buzzworthy Brands interview with Pulsinelli to hear about those upgrades and what the growing chain has planned for the future.
Here are five more things to know about Viva Chicken:
- The first Viva Chicken opened in 2014. Between 2015 and 2018, after receiving funding, the chain opened eight more units. Pulsinelli, who knew Thompson from his days at Firebirds, described joining Viva Chicken as “same church, just a different pew.”
- The concept centers around a charcoal-fired rotisserie. The special ovens are built in Peru by a craftsman who knows the chain’s founder. Viva Chicken promises a new batch of hot, fresh chicken every 80 minutes from those ovens.
- At the outset of the pandemic, Viva Chicken found success by offering its Bruno’s Big Chicken deal every day—enough chicken for a family of four, plus three large sides, for $20. The chain reached out to homeowner’s associations to do large deliveries of the family meals.
- In 2019, Viva Chicken improved its digital operation, adding a loyalty program, an app, improved web ordering, kitchen display systems, and grab-and-go shelving inside restaurants. Pre-pandemic, 27% of the chain’s sales came through digital channels. Now, just over half of sales come through those platforms. “We took the time in 2019 and put a lot of resources into improving our digital presence,” Pulsinelli said.
- This year, the brand plans to open two new locations. In 2021 and 2022, Viva Chicken hopes to return to 20% to 30% new unit growth.