Layne's Chicken Fingers | EXECUTIVE Q&A
Layne’s Chicken Fingers: Executive Q&A, Garrett Reed, CEO
Tell us about Layne’s and how you got involved.
Layne’s first opened in 1994 near Texas A&M University. It was the first restaurant in Texas to specialize in chicken tenders and has grown into this really unique cult brand. Today, it retains this really cool culture. You walk in and the guests are happy. The employees are happy. It has a fantastic vibe. Mike Layne, who created the original recipes, really came up with a way to do chicken tenders that were beyond anything else. I grew up in College Station, so in 2016, when Matt and I were looking for an investment opportunity, I thought of Layne’s. We bought the brand with a strategy to spend our first few years transforming from a mom-and-pop style business to one that had the structure and systems it needed to franchise. We currently have eight locations in Texas, which includes our first franchise location that opened in June in Houston.
Tell us about Layne’s core leadership team.
It’s a diverse team. Each member has specific expertise that’s geared toward a franchise business. I have a degree in finance, but my core background is in the restaurant and commercial real estate industries. I have worked on the in-house real estate teams of Starbucks, Corner Bakery and Dunkin’ Donuts. In 2004, I started a real estate development company, which primarily developed restaurants, which I still own and is a very thriving company today. We perform site selection, market studies and research for a lot of different restaurants. Matthew O’Reilly is my business partner. He is the finance guy and handles all the key deals with our accountants for all the transactional issues. Samir Wattar is our chief operations officer. His background is in restaurant operations. He has worked with emerging brands like MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and oversees the day-to-day operations.
Why is right now the time to invest in a Layne’s franchise?
I think space will get more and more crowded because the world of protein has shifted. The younger generation (Millennials, Gen Z and younger) want a cleaner protein, which happens to be chicken. That’s the reason everyone from McDonald’s and Wendy’s is investing so heavily in it. The chicken wars are real. But the space that we're targeting is the middle-to-upper income demographic. It’s an audience that has developed over the last 10 years. It’s the same audience of Raising Cane’s, Slim Chickens and Chick-fil-A. It’s a pretty exclusive club. We're not competing with the Church’s and the Popeye's and the KFC’s of the world. So now is the right time because it’s a space that’s going to only get more crowded, and the cost of entry will be greater.
Why do you think Layne’s is a sound investment?
This chicken space is tough to get into. Raising Cane’s doesn't franchise. Chick-fil-A doesn't really franchise; you can get a single unit. Slim Chickens franchises are sold out of a lot of franchise opportunities in prime markets. So we've built a model that allows people to get into this coveted space of fresh chicken tenders at an economically feasible price.
What kind of qualities are you looking for in a franchisee?
That’s a great question because we have received hundreds of inquiries to become Layne’s franchisees, but we're not really interested in selling a ton of franchise units unless we find the right fit. Yes, a franchisee must meet a certain level of net worth. They have to have experience. The thing they have to have, and I’m not saying this tongue-in-cheek, but they have to be Layne’s. That’s a hard thing to define. Basically, you have combined both a carefree, friendly attitude with an uncompromising demand for perfection in everything you do. You need to be able to make money, but you also need to have fun.
Do you have growth goals for 2021 and beyond?
We’d like to have 100 units by 2025. I think we could probably exceed that goal if we find the right partners. We're shooting for about 35 units corporately in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, hoping to open about two to three units a year in Dallas for the foreseeable future.