Chicken N Pickle sources hormone-free proteins and a lot of its fruits and vegetables from nearby farms. The menu features chicken (served with a flour tortilla, avocado, and serrano pepper), a chicken+rib combo, bowls, sandwiches, salads, and “munchies” like wings and a chicken quesadilla. The restaurant developed its own seasoning blends and doesn’t freeze anything except for sweet potato fries and tater tots. In Texas, Chicken N Pickle uses akaushi— a Japanese red Wagyu breed of beef cattle—from a producer in Austin, and in Missouri, the chain uses grass-feed beef from a Good Natured Family Farms producer in Fort Scott, Kansas.
In terms of community, Chicken N Pickle started its own nonprofit, Our Hearts Are Local, and hosts other 501(c)(3) companies almost every day to assist with fundraising efforts. The concept also runs a Green Cup Campaign, with proceeds going to charity, and helped more than 100 small family farms set up distribution across Kansas and Missouri.
The burgeoning legacy is what originally attracted Populous to the project.
“What I think I get up in the morning for is getting to know new clients, learning their story, their passion, what caused them to start up. … So not losing the spirit of the concept, which is what made it so successful, but also adding elements that add a layer of sophistication," says Paoli, describing Populous' approach to formulating a new design.Trying to tell more of the story about the farm to table by using some barn vernacular, but modern barn vernacular. Tying it back to the spirit of why they started and why the product is so good.”
The prototype is structured so that it can flex up or down into a variety of spaces. Typically, Chicken N Pickle fits into about 1.75 acres, but could potentially downsize to 1.25 or 1 acre. Crooks estimates the cost of building the new design is about the same. In addition to the three sites scheduled to open, the team has identified at least another four or five sites for potential expansion. The hope is to increase the pace from one to two openings per year to three to five and reach more than 20 locations in the next two years.
Chicken N Pickle taps into one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. Pickleball participation has experienced an average annual growth rate of 11.5 percent in the past five years, according to the 2022 Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) Single Sport Report, with 4.8 million players in 2021. The sport is primarily associated with older generations that step down from competitive tennis, but Crooks notes that he’s personally seen growth in youth and the 25-35-year-old demographic.
But Chicken N Pickle is more than just pickleball. The social entertainment center offers several activities, such as running, yoga, luaus, and wine tastings. Crooks calls the concept a “chameleon that can morph into whatever we want it to be on any given day.” The company hopes that message comes across even stronger once the new prototype rolls out.
“People smile when they come in the door, and it's sort of a respite from acrimony in today's society is,” Crooks says. “There's not a lot of politics. You don't see a lot of kids on smart devices, you see them interacting with their parents and their friends and having fun and that's part of the reason it's so engaging I think.”