KFC, Popeye's Chicken Chef and Chicken Delight will soon have more competition — a Texas-grown fast-food chain is bringing its chicken and biscuits to Manitoba.
Church's Texas Chicken plans to roll out its quick-service restaurants in the province as early as next year.
"It's a prime market for us," said Russ Sumrall, the senior vice-president of international strategic development for Church's Chicken (only the international sites are called Church's Texas Chicken).
The chain is in 27 countries — 28, once it opens spots in Qatar in the next few months. It already sells its chicken strips and sandwiches in British Columbia, Ontario and Edmonton.
Saskatchewan will see Church's Texas Chickens early next year. Then, Sumrall is focusing on Manitoba. It's part of the restaurant's Canadian expansion: it’s opening 20 eateries throughout 2021, and plans on another 40 for 2022.
"Manitoba is an obvious place for us to go," Sumrall said. "It's a sizeable market already."
"Manitoba is an obvious place for us to go." – Russ Sumrall
Doors will first open in Winnipeg and southern Manitoba, closer to the border. Then, the company might expand further across the province.
There isn't a set number of locations opening in Manitoba yet, Sumrall said.
"We wouldn't go to a new market unless we knew that we could develop 10 or more restaurants in the area," he said.
A lot needs to happen before any Church's can accept customers. The business must conduct research to identify best restaurant locations and a timeline for opening. It needs to establish its supply chain. Staff require training.
Hence the wait for Manitoba's first-ever Church's Texas Chicken for at least, roughly, one year.
In some cases, the Southern-bred company has flourished during the pandemic, according to Sumrall. People were ordering their honey butter biscuits and spicy chicken to go.
"We had examples, particularly in Canada, where our sales increased because our product was accessible and convenient through delivery," he said.
The company has reached sales over $1 billion internationally.
George W. Church founded Church's Chicken in San Antonio, Texas, in 1952. The business has grown to over 1,500 locations — including 44 in Canada, as of September — and two sister brands, Texas Chicken and Church's Texas Chicken.
The company has been in Canada since 1978, but it only started vigorously expanding in 2019.
People have applied to own Church's Texas Chicken franchises in Manitoba. However, there's still room for more, Sumrall said.
He's looking for people with experience operating other large brands, like Tim Hortons and Wendy's.
"(Then) there's not that steep learning curve for our franchise partner," Sumrall said.
Once Manitoba has its fair share of Church's, the chain will expand into the Maritimes.
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