Slim Chickens opens another location in Central Illinois


Lily Katz

The Chicks Plate meal includes three tenders and each entree includes Texas toast, fries, and a medium drink and can be found at Slim Chickens off of Neil Street.

By Sam Schrage, Contributing writer

High school friends Tom Gordon and Greg Smart had no idea how much success their hand-breaded chicken tenders would bring them when they opened their first Slim Chickens restaurant in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2003.

The lack of “better chicken” in Arkansas and around the U.S. sparked an interest in Gordon and Smart. Because of this, they decided to create a reliable, fresh and overall good-tasting product.

“They felt like there was a need for good quality chicken tenders in Fayetteville, Arkansas, so they started testing out some recipes in their garage at home and had all their friends over to try the different products they were creating. Eventually they put together a concept and opened up their first store in 2003,” said Brian Simowitz, vice president of franchise operations for Slim Chickens.

Thirteen years later, Slim Chickens has opened 40 more restaurants, one of which is located near the University at 2037 S. Neil St. in Champaign.

Since its opening on Oct. 19, the Slim Chickens in Champaign has seen an influx of customers, just as director of operations and area manager for Illinois Dave Harris predicted.

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    “Champaign was a perfect spot for our expansion,” Harris said. “It’s a newer area and venue. It’s close to the University and is located in a perfect spot in town.”

    Slim Chickens’ success is not limited only to Champaign. With restaurants in 10 states and counting, Slim Chickens has plans to expand the franchise by as many as 50 restaurants next year.

    This year alone, the franchise’s restaurant numbers have increased tremendously. Slim Chickens has opened 13 locations this year and plans to open 10 more.

    Simowitz said the brand is always looking for franchises in the Midwest. The franchise opened their first Illinois restaurant in Peoria in 2015 and plans to continue its Illinois expansion later this year.

    “We feature chicken tenders and wings. We use all fresh product and have 13 signature dipping sauces. We also have salads, wraps and grilled chicken,” Simowitz said. “We have a lot of points of differentiation. You can order chicken tenders and change the flavor of the chicken tender every time.”

    In addition, Slim Chickens offers much more than just the standard chicken tenders and fries.

    “We also have fresh hand-breaded mushrooms and pickles, fried okra and chicken and waffles,” Harris said. “Our famous jar desserts that we hand-build every single day, three of which we offer in the winter season are extremely popular. Unique options like that make us different from our competitors.”

    Slim Chickens’ menu is not the only thing that keeps customers coming back. Customers think the restaurant’s personal relationship with their customers and distinctive southern influence prevents the brand from being labeled as “just another chicken joint.”

    “My favorite part of the Slim Chickens experience is its atmosphere and good quality chicken,” said Stewart Cousins, frequent customer of Slim Chickens. “The menu reminds me of the south, which is where I’m from and why I brought my daughter here.”


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