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Legacy restaurant brand Cowboy Chicken knows it can stand out in the crowd with its specialty chicken.

How Cowboy Chicken is standing out from the surging chicken segment

The 40-year-old restaurant brand is continuing to innovate alongside its signature product

It takes a lot to stand out in what’s become a very crowded chicken market. With new restaurants popping up specializing in things like Nashville hot or tenders, it’s difficult to draw customers to a brand. However, legacy brand Cowboy Chicken knows it can stand out in the crowd with its specialty chicken.

Cowboy Chicken uses wood-fired chicken roasted on a spit and has for 40 years. That, said director of marketing for the brand Kim Jensen-Pitts, is what gives the brand runway amid other chicken sandwich or tender players.

“Honestly, nobody’s really out there cooking with wood,” she said.

Each location uses locally sourced wood, which Jensen-Pitts says makes a difference in the taste of the chicken.

“I think the fact that [the chicken] is natural woodfired is reminiscent of the time when cowboys cooked over an open flame. I think all of those things are very genuine [for the brand],” she said.

The chickens, available for purchase as a whole chicken, half chicken, or in parts across various other dishes, are seasoned and marinated for 24 hours before being put on the spit and roasted.

“It’s fast, casual… but it’s sort of interesting because it’s really a slow cooking style,” Jensen-Pitts said.

Not only does Cowboy Chicken have to compete with the Raising Cane’s of the world, it also has to compete with Costco and BJ’s — both known for their inexpensive rotisserie chickens.

“It is a little bit of an education for people to understand why it isn’t a Costco chicken or why it isn’t something we get at Kroger or Publix. They’re different. It’s artisanal,” she said.

Don’t think that just because the chain became known for its wood-fired chicken that it’s all Cowboy Chicken can do. The Dallas-based concept has also developed chicken tenders after seeing an increase in appetite for boneless chicken from younger generations.

At first, the brand tried to use its wood-fired chicken to make tenders, but the process was too labor-intensive and not good for franchisees, so Cowboy Chicken pivoted to a more traditional tender.

Following the launch of tenders in the second quarter of 2022, the product now makes up 10% of total sales for Cowboy Chicken.

The next step for Cowboy Chicken? Wings.

The brand is set to launch wings on Dec. 26 nationwide, just in time for football playoffs.

These wings add to the chicken-focused menu, which has standout items like the chicken enchilada with a tomatillo sauce and the keto salad that uses chicken crackling instead of bacon for the crunch.

The locations are also getting an upgrade to Cowboy Chicken 2.0, as Jensen-Pitt is calling it. That includes a new logo that features the flame more prominently than other versions have, in order to emphasize the brand’s differentiator.

At the end of the day, Cowboy Chicken just wants to be a place for the whole family. The chain’s most popular item is the family meal for four people, which includes a whole chicken, three sides, four rolls, and a dessert.

There’s also a version of the family meal with chicken tenders, brisket, and the chicken enchilada.

These meals have been the most popular item on the menu since long before COVID hit but they, along with the brand’s in-house delivery drivers, helped propel Cowboy Chicken to the other side of the pandemic with ease.

Plus, the food travels well, so it wasn’t difficult to figure out how to deliver it.

What’s next for Cowboy Chicken? A focus on the brand’s tech stack and the behind-the-scenes technology to help improve efficiencies and make franchisees’ lives easier.

TAGS: Menu
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