With consumers slipping into more conservative spending habits, several veteran concept creators are foregoing restaurant startups on the fringes to base new ventures on the proven popularity of chicken. But don’t expect thinly disguised knockoffs of KFC. These new efforts break new ground, largely in the quality of their ingredients. Plus, there’s still more than a note or two of novelty in the hatchlings.
Here’s a sampling.
Sam Fox’s Doughbird
The creator of such hits as Zinburger, True Food Kitchen and Sauce has revealed plans to open a pizza-rotisserie combo concept called Doughbird in his home market of Phoenix. The venture, Fox’s 16th, will be full-service.
He told the website AzCentral.com that the menu will feature 12 to 15 seasonal pizzas, three types of rotisserie chicken and folded sandwiches.
The targeted opening date is February.
Adriano Paganini’s The Bird
The chef-proprietor of San Francisco’s Back of the House multiconcept group plans to hatch a fast-casual fried chicken sandwich place next month called The Bird. He’ll continue to operate Super Duper Burger, Uno Dos Tacos and 16 other restaurants while developing the sandwich shop, which is described on its website as offering “fast food with attitude.” Its logo is a fox with a chicken sandwich in its mouth.
The Bird will reportedly make its signature sandwich with free-range chicken.
Paganini's best-known concept may have been Pasta Pomodoro, the pasta place that called itself fast casual because of its under-$10 prices, even though it offered full service. He sold 25% of the concept to Wendy’s before selling it entirely to a third party when the chain reached 46 stores.
Aaron Noveshen’s Starbird
At a few months old, the Sunnyvale, Calif., concept is the old hen of the group. It was opened by Noveshen, a veteran concept creator and operator (Pacific Catch, World Wrapps) whose day job is running The Culinary Edge consulting group.
Starbird aims to sell a new class of fast food, relying heavily on technology and accommodations to the times. For instance, although convenience is a big part of the concept’s promise, a drive-thru was not incorporated into the prototype, a reflection of widespread opposition in present-day California to that mode of service. Instead, orders can be placed remotely, and customers are assigned a numbered parking spot in the lot outside, where the food will be delivered to them.
A wall behind the front area shows the status of each order’s preparation, with an alert as to when it’s ready.
The spotlight is on a chicken sandwich made with locally raised poultry.
Todd Richards’ Richards’ Southern Fried
Atlanta chef Todd Richards dropped a filet into the fryer in July, opening his namesake restaurant while continuing to serve as executive chef of a higher-end local hotspot, White Oak Kitchen.
As with many of his counterparts, Richards is showcasing a fried chicken sandwich, which is given the twist of being topped with chow chow and being battered in “hot” breading. It sells for $8.95.