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St. Louis-area franchisee eyes 30 Slim Chickens restaurants across Missouri, Illinois

Slim Chickens offers fresh, never frozen chicken tenders, which are cooked to order
Credit: SLBJ

ST. LOUIS — A locally based franchisee has inked a 30-unit deal to expand a fast-casual chicken wing concept in Southern Illinois and Missouri — and has opened its first St. Louis-area location, in Troy, Missouri.

Seasoned restaurateurs Derek Menne and Mike Moreland are opening the region's first Slim Chickens franchise location Wednesday at 31 The Plaza in Troy. They currently work as directors of restaurant operations for commercial real estate developer R Solution LLC, which struck the franchise deal through its R Chicken LLC division. Both Menne and Moreland have spent years working in the quick service restaurant industry, including with brands such as Lion's Choice, Hardee's and Pizza Hut.

Slim Chickens offers fresh, never frozen chicken tenders, which are cooked to order, Moreland said. The Fayetteville, Arkansas-based franchisor has its own special blend of breading and 17 different house-made sauces. The menu also includes wings, wraps, salads and sandwiches.

"The community and customers are very similar to the guests of the communities that we are well established in," Sam Rothschild, chief operating officer of Slim Chickens, said of the brand's expansion to Troy.

The Troy location is 2,400 square feet, which is typical for a Slim Chickens restaurant, Moreland said. There is an outdoor patio, and the restaurant has total seating capacity of 87. Moreland and Menne have hired about 65 employees for the opening of the restaurant.

Moreland declined to share investment costs but according to several franchising websites, a Slim Chickens investment ranges from $915,000 to $1.7 million. Rothschild said the brand charges a 5% royalty fee and 1.5% for a marketing fund that directly benefits franchise owners. He added that Slim Chickens has reduced the royalty fee by 1.5% due to Covid-19, until business is back up.

In addition to the location in Troy, Moreland and Menne are working on Slim Chickens locations in both Jefferson City and in St. Louis. Moreland said the terms were still under discussion and he couldn't share a specific location for either. 

Through other R Solution entities, the company already operates four Slim Chickens locations, in Columbia and Lebanon, Missouri, and Champaign and Plainfield, Illinois, and is a franchisee for Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers in the Florida-Gulf Coast region.

Moreland and Menne began work on the Slim Chickens deal prior to the pandemic and decided it was in everyone's best interest to proceed with the project, Moreland said. He said R Solution's other quick service restaurants took a beating the first few weeks of the pandemic but have recovered with record sales in recent months.

In terms of prepping for the Slim Chickens opening during a pandemic, Moreland said the biggest hurdle was shipping delays. 

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