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From Fans to Franchisees: What Inspired Chicken in a Barrel’s First Franchise Partners to Pursue Business Ownership
First time franchisees Alex and Jennifer Vilera are bringing the brand’s concept to the Mainland U.S. in 2017.

Alex and Jennifer Vilera never dreamed of opening their own restaurant. But as soon as they moved from their home in Hawaii to California, they realized that the only way they were going to satisfy their craving for food from their favorite restaurant was by making it themselves.

“After our move, all I could think about was Chicken in a Barrel and how much I was craving it,” said Jennifer.

The Vileras had spent about a year living in Hawaii, and moved back to Santa Barbara in 2015 to be near family after the couple learned they were expecting their first child. And while they still had sandy beaches and a laid back vibe in California, they couldn’t satisfy their cravings for Chicken in a Barrel—an aloha-style restaurant based in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. After a year of planning and weighing their options, the Vileras signed on to bring Chicken in a Barrel to the Mainland.

“We’re thrilled to have the Vileras as our first franchisees,” said Mike Pierce, Chicken in a Barrel founder and owner. “It was very important to us that our first franchise partners share the same goals and family values as we do, and Jennifer and Alex are a great fit in that sense. They, too, intend to spread the love of God with this business, and plan on creating a family-friendly atmosphere. We’re looking forward to seeing what great things come from them and the growth they’re bringing to the brand.”

For the Vileras, franchising with Chicken in a Barrel is more than a business venture. It’s also an opportunity to create a space where their family can come together, which is why they decided to make the leap to become franchisees in the first place. For their first location, which is expected to be open for business by the end of 2017, the couple is employing all family members. And from there, the Vileras are hoping their siblings and other family members, too, might open nearby locations to help grow the business.

Jennifer, an event coordinator for International Student Tours, and Alex, a restaurant industry veteran, are the kind of couple who are willing to step outside of their comfort zones. Through Jennifer’s work, the couple traveled to Hawaii every year, and as they began visiting more frequently, they knew it was an adventure they wanted to last longer than a month here and there. So they packed their bags and moved from Santa Barbara to the island of Kauai. After living in vacation rentals for the first month of their move, the Vileras chose to set up a more permanent residence on the north shore of the island, which just so happens to be where Chicken in a Barrel has its two road-side locations. From that moment on, the couple was hooked.

“We ended up going to this church where they’d serve lunch after the service, and one day they were serving Chicken in a Barrel, which we already loved by this point,” said Jennifer. “During lunch that day, we found out that the assistant pastor at the church, Mike Pierce, was also the owner of the restaurant. It was just really awesome to learn that the restaurant we’d begun liking so much was also owned by this great person.”

Soon after the Vileras moved back to Santa Barbara, Jennifer reached out to Pierce and asked if they’d consider franchising. And the rest, as they say, is history.

“We are really excited to work with Mike and the rest of the Chicken in a Barrel team,” said Alex. “They’ve become our great friends, and it’s crazy to think we didn’t even know them very well when we lived there. The restaurant is such a great brand, and we’re looking forward to making the most of our opportunity to grow alongside its team.”

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