Chicken N Pickle—a social venue combining food, entertainment, and pickleball—averages about 3.5 acres with parking and 32,000 square feet. Each facility attracts more than 650,000 customers per year and staffs around 180 positions.
But at the end of the day, it’s a pretty simple concept, says president Kelli Alldredge.
“We talk about it a lot—we’re a plastic ball and a paddle,” she notes. “We try to just not complicate things, especially as we now just get back to the basics.”
Chicken N Pickle is involved in one of America’s most rapidly expanding sports—pickleball. According to the 2022 Single Sport Report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), the sport has seen an average yearly growth rate in the double digits over the last five years. In 2021 alone, the game attracted 4.8 million players. The sport is primarily associated with older generations who step down from competitive tennis, but the average age keeps declining. In 2021 it was 38.1 years old, down 2.9 years compared to 2020.
The primary attraction at Chicken N Pickle is several indoor and outdoor pickleball courts. Courts can be reserved online and pickleballs/paddles are available to rent onsite. Additionally, there are several lawn games available, such as cornhole, ping pong, battleship, and Jenga. The brand’s entertainment/pickleball concept was first to market in 2017, landing in Kansas City, Missouri. Since then, seven more have been built in Wichita, Kansas; San Antonio, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Overland Park, Kansas; Grand Prairie and Grapevine, Texas; and Glendale, Arizona.
Chicken N Pickle’s momentum gained fuel this year with $10 million in capital from family and friends, including Kansas City Chiefs superstars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. Jack Sock, a former professional tennis player who now plays in the Professional Pickleball Association, is also a minority investor.
The plan is to nearly double in size to 15 venues by 2025—making Chicken N Pickle the fastest-growing pickleball eatertainment brand in the U.S. Of those seven future facilities, one will come this year (St. Charles, Missouri), four will be in 2024 (Allen, Texas; Fishers, Indiana; Henderson, Nevada; and Webster, Texas), and two will be in early 2025 (Thornton and Parker, Colorado).
“We start really early marketing in that area outreach,” Alldredge explains. “We just opened Glendale in August, but we actually started in February going to Glendale—coming soon, hiring, marketing collaterals. So we put a lot of effort into getting the word out prior to when we would start hiring or interviewing. So it takes a lot of effort, manpower per se. But each store we open, we notice we’re getting more and more applicants. So I just feel like our brand growth is healthy. We had over 700 applicants in Glendale and that was the biggest by far.”
The St. Charles, Missouri, location will be the first to display Chicken N Pickle’s new prototype, which was formulated in partnership with Populous, a Kansas City-based global design firm that’s been involved with Yankee Stadium, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, Camden Yards (home of the Baltimore Orioles), and Climate Pledge Arena (home of the Seattle Kraken and Seattle Storm).
The revised layout serves as a tangible expression of the brand’s dedication to community engagement and locally sourced food. The setting evokes the feel of a communal plaza, featuring various activities surrounding a central courtyard adorned with trees. This multifunctional core area can accommodate live concerts, viewing events, ice skating, and more. Complementing this expansive open space are six indoor and four outdoor pickleball courts, as well as a compact kitchen equipped with an exterior grill.
Alldredge says the menu is “one of the biggest surprises that our property offers.” True to its name, the brand offers antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken, pulled pork, grass-fed beef sandwiches, a variety of salads, and more. At the Glendale location in particular, there’s Country Fried Chicken, Double Smashed Burgers, Chicken N Waffles, and a BBQ Mac N Cheese Bowl. There are also several cocktails, like the Mango Jalapeño Margarita and Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade.
Indoor and outdoor dining areas are open seating. Customers pay at a cashier and then grab a GPS-enabled table tent so the server knows where to find them.
“We’re never opposed to adding, but we have those staples and we plan to keep it very consistent, says Alldredge, describing the brand’s menu offerings. “We do have good food. We are a scratch kitchen, and it’s super fun.”
To shake things up, Chicken N Pickle locations seasonally host pop-up bars. One is Tiki-themed (May to September) with tropical favorites. Another is Snowbound, a holiday bar that runs from November to December.
“I mean, we always want to give you multiple reasons to come in, right?” Alldredge says. “Not just the pickleball or not just great food. We like to give people reasons to come back and come back and come back. So they’re just a unique experience. We love to create experiences on our property and build memories and they really foster that. But I think it drives more business. Our people know it. And we might not get that visit during December if we didn’t have [the pop-up bar].”
The pickleball social entertainment scene is a quickly growing segment overall. Iowa-based Smash Park, which has four locations, announced in June that it received a “significant” minority investment from DCA Partners to help build units in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Omaha, Nebraska. Also, Punch Bowl Social founder Robert Thompson revealed he’s working on Camp Pickle, an upcoming venue that will have 100,000 square feet of outdoor and 60,000 square feet of indoor space.
Alldredge says she’s all for competition. In the meantime, Chicken N Pickle will keep focusing on its greatest strength—everyday customers.
“It’s the way we’re able to impact communities and give people a place together and set their technology down,” she says. “It’s just the energy that we feel every day on property that drives us to get many of the people.”