As burger and pizza concepts continue to saturate the limited-service segment, chicken concepts are beginning to take off in Canada. Whereas many chains are expanding menus to suit a variety of tastes, menus at chicken concepts are focused and limited, building a strong sense of specialization and differentiation. Operators are picking particular chicken preparations and sticking to it, whether it be Southern fried or rotisserie-style. Here we will spotlight a few standout chicken concepts making their way up in the limited-service pecking order.
Labeling itself as “alternative fast food,” Toronto-based The Chickery offers premium, gourmet chicken at fast-casual prices. This dreamchild of Food Network Canada celebrity David Adjey is a modern take on the traditional chicken joint, providing guests with quality food in a lively atmosphere. The emerging chain’s all-natural, fresh and never-frozen chicken from local organic farms is available roasted, fried and as a topping on sandwiches or salads. Currently operating two Toronto units, The Chickery isn’t stopping there. The chain’s franchise development partnership with Fransmart and a financial investment via FranInvest are fueling aggressive growth plans. Beyond further Toronto expansion, the chain has its sights set on international development and its recent Washington, D.C., opening is just the tip of the iceberg. The chain also recently signed a 20-unit deal to expand to the UAE and Qatar, fueling its overall goal of 80–100 restaurants throughout the Middle East over the next 10 years.
Cluck N Cleaver
Owned and operated by sister duo Nicole and Francine Gomes, Calgary’s Cluck N Cleaver is a quick-service concept serving up Southern fried and rotisserie chicken, both in a secret chicken rub. Opened a few months ago, the takeout-focused restaurant combines Francine’s love of raising chickens and Nicole’s cooking expertise, which includes her time as a contestant on “Top Chef Canada.” The 1,000-square-foot unit has a state-of-the-art fryer and a large rotisserie where chickens slowly rotate above trays of potatoes that catch the meat’s juices. Adding value is a boxed combo meal featuring chicken with a choice of side, such as rotisserie potatoes, fries, buttermilk biscuits, gravy and rotisserie chicken poutine. Additionally, the chain serves up freshly made salads in varieties like coleslaw and potato-and-egg. The traditional menu is balanced by modern, playful decor with kitschy chicken-related paraphernalia like vintage KFC items.
Flock Rotisserie + Greens
Created by The Harbord Room’s Cory Vitiello, Toronto’s Flock Rotisserie + Greens serves up quality, healthy rotisserie chicken and specialty salads. The chain’s slow-roasted chicken is made with free-range birds sourced from Farm Fresh Poultry Co. in Harrison, Ontario. Each chicken is rubbed with a house blend of spices and dry-cured for 24 hours before being roasted for 60 to 70 minutes. The intention at Flock isn’t overly crispy skin, but simply well-seasoned roasted chicken. The other half of the menu lists healthy vegetable-based salads with ingredients like marinated kale, quinoa, beets, roasted veggies and goji berries. Salads are dressed with better-for-you vinaigrettes made with less oil, such as beet-basil-orange vinaigrette. Flock currently has three locations in Toronto, ranging from fast-casual units to a new full-service restaurant with an expanded menu and bar service, and a fourth is slated to open soon.
Chicken is a staple of North American cuisine, making it an ideal opportunity for menu and concept innovation, particularly within the fast-casual segment. As more chicken concepts continue to crop up across Canada, expect concepts to differentiate themselves by emphasizing protein quality and specialty rubs, sauces and sides. We will also begin to see authentic ethnic chicken as a focus at concepts, ranging from Caribbean jerk to Korean fried varieties.