If you love southern fried chicken fingers and a positive work culture – you might just be what Layne’s Chicken Fingers is looking for in the Permian Basin.
The cult-favorite that was “born and breaded” in 1994 in College Station by college students Mike Layne and Mike Garratt is now operated out of Frisco by CEO Garrett Reed.
Reed, in a phone interview this week, said he and a business partner took a love of good food and good vibes in the workplace and bought the restaurant in 2017 after pitching the idea of franchising it to the founders.
He hopes to find someone local to Odessa-Midland to pick up a franchise but said if he doesn’t several restaurant groups are interested in bringing the growing chicken empire to the area.
Reed grew up in College Station and loved that Layne’s Chicken Fingers started as a Mom and Pop and he has added locations around Texas. He hopes to bring the chain across the state. There are also a few locations in other states but Reed’s focus is on getting his chicken all over the Lone Star State for now.
Currently they are in Dallas-Fort Worth, Allen, Frisco, Lewisville and Roanoke as well as College Station and Houston.
“We are looking for franchisees…there is a lot of interest from different franchise groups…so far all the growth has been with franchisers who are local to the communities…we have a lot of interest (in the Odessa area) from bigger groups that want a larger territory but before we sign on with a larger group we are making a push for someone locally to franchise.”
Reed said it is a big deal for Layne’s to try for that local connections. “Like in ‘Cheers’ where everybody knows your name…we hope it will be a local operator in the next year.” If not, Reed said Layne’s will hit West Texas through a larger operator.
Part of the appeal of the Layne’s group, Reed said, is the positive culture and grooming employees to move up and on to bigger and better things. “I’m a small town guy and picky about who we partner with and the culture is so important and you have to love food and our culture.”
He said a family atmosphere with a laid back culture is the key. “Every DFW manager was an hourly employee…we love to promote from within and provide opportunities.”
Reed said the culture started with the founders including one from Georgia who wanted a fried chicken place. “They started with chicken fingers, toast and cole slaw,” and the menu grew from there.. “They were laid back with that college culture.”
He said the original recipe the duo started with is still used and that the secret sauce is, indeed, secret with nine or 10 seasonings and “only about three people know what they are.”
Reed said the appeal of the chicken fingers is that it is like eating homemade fried chicken. “It doesn’t need a sauce…we have sauces but it doesn’t need it. Our chicken tender is made of the best pieces of chicken and is marinated for 48 hours.”
He said it is crispy and built more like a traditional southern fried chicken. He said they do have gravy and a number of sauces that are made fresh each day at every store.
He said they put a lot into their employees with a positive culture and that their employees “are the very best” and are loyal to Layne’s. Some even have a generational great story to share.
Reed said the original store in College Station has always allowed customers to write notes on receipts or paper and attach them to the walls inside the restaurant. One note stated “will you marry me” and had been at that original locations for years and years. “We always wondered about that one…where it came from,” Reed said.
He found out years later when the Lewisville Layne’s opened during a team building exercise with the employees. They were going around room and asking the new employees to share something about themselves.
“During the ice breaker one of the girls said her mom and dad went to A&M and that her dad proposed to her mom on a note on the wall…so we got to meet a byproduct of the original restaurant.”
He said that family feel is important and he figures someone in Odessa/Midland might have that same mindset. He said those interested in a franchise should go to their website at layneschickenfingers.com and click the franchise button. One of the partners calls every potential franchisee back. “Not a sales force…we screen and talk to every potential person who wants to go into business with us.”