Chicken Guy Building Management Coop
Guy Fieri, the bleach-blonde, Emmy-nominated celebrity chef known for his show "Diners Drive-Ins and Dives" and other Food Network shows, has been working on something new, a fried chicken concept dubbed Chicken Guy that is coming to the franchise world with the help of a growing leadership team.
For the initial location, Fieri partnered with Robert Earl, the founder and chairman of Planet Hollywood, chairman of Buca di Beppo and founder of Earl of Sandwich restaurants. The pair opened the first location in 2018 at a Disney resort, which proved to be an incredible learning experience, as the nascent Chief Licensing Officer John Dikos explained.
“The beauty of that location is it brought years of experience in a short time period,” said Dikos at the 2019 Restaurant Finance & Development Conference. “Consumers there vote with their feet.”
And it was a vote of confidence for Earl and Fieri, who since opening that location have started putting together a management team to grow via licensing and franchising. Since then, three other locations opened, two stadium locations and one in the Aventura Mall in Aventura, Florida.
Dikos said one of the most notable parts of the concept is that it’s not just a licensing deal to keep Fieri’s iconic red convertible running; he’s heavily involved, which may prove a boon for Dikos as he looks to bring in franchisees.
“One of the most interesting things is Guy wants to be fully involved in this,” said Dikos. “He’s putting his own capital in. This is something he’s looking at as his baby.”
He said he’s seen what that does before during his time at Mod Pizza where he spent his prior six years helping grow the brand from nine stores to 470.
“Just like Scott and Ally [Svenson] wanted to be involved, similarly with Guy and Robert, they want this for the long term, not to sell off. That attracts a certain type of franchisee,” said Dikos.
For him personally, he said it’s also a nice way to re-think the strategies around company growth.
“I don’t want to say try again but you think about what you did in the last six years from nine stores to 470, the opportunity for a do over, how would you take a left instead of a right,” said Dikos. “It’s alluring, when you think about the next steps ahead.”
He’s laser focused on the people and culture part, but everything from growth strategies to market identification and technology to sales tactics and strategies around loyalty and innovation can be re-thought for the brand.
The No. 1 factor is, of course, the food. It’s clear from the success of Chick-fil-A, Raising Cane’s and Huey Magoo’s, quality counts.
“There’s a real focus on the best chicken we can possibly find, having very high standards on even the size of the tenders. No. 2 is dipping sauces. We have 22 and the vast majority of those are made in house,” said Dikos.
The chicken will come in the form mostly of tenders and sandwiches. And its one of the only places to get Fieri’s popular “Donkey Sauce.”
Of course, this is a lot of excitement for a four-unit brand, even with Fieri, Earl and Dikos in tow. But Dikos and team have already announced an additional seven in the pipeline, the latest being a development deal with FACE Hospitality out of Tennessee, which plans to put up locations in downtown Nashville and a block off Honky Tonk row. There are also plans for a location at the Mall of America.