Starbird Chicken was founded in the Silicon Valley community of Sunnyvale, Calif., in 2016 by The Culinary Edge a restaurant consulting firm led by Aaron Noveshen.
The chef and entrepreneur had started other restaurant concepts, including Pacific Catch and World Wrapps, and also had consulted with many other restaurant companies. He decided to use his consulting approach to himself.
“We applied our own concept creation process to the marketplace,” he said. “We were completely agnostic and said ‘we don’t know what even type of concept we want to do.’”
He saw that chicken had growing appeal among consumers, and so he went with that, but he also wanted better technology and design, and also, being a chef, he wanted the food to be great.
So the chicken is high-quality, never frozen or treated with antibiotics. The chain offers fried tenders, breast, wings and boneless wings and a proprietary vegetarian product called Garden Bird, as well as brined and grilled chicken breast.
The fried chicken is breaded and fried in house using a fairly typical three-step process, but as it turns out the best breading just so happened to be gluten-free, which is obviously an added bonus.
The fried tenders or grilled breast are cut up and used in salads, which is the chain’s most popular category, particularly the Chicken Chop, made with fried tenders, tomatoes, roasted corn, mashed avocado, pumpkin seeds, fried tortilla strips, cilantro, scallions, and chipotle lime dressing.
There are also sandwiches, tacos, tenders, and wings, as well as nine sauces and five dressings that are made for them and finished in-house with fresh elements such as herbs.
“We’re not cooking our barbecue sauce and reducing it in-house,” Noveshen said. “We take out the complexity where we can, and we leave in the complexity where it makes a difference,” with items such as fresh watermelon radishes, and iced tea that’s brewed in-house.
The staff also makes seasonally rotating lemonades, and the soda is provided by another Bay-Area Company, Alameda Point Craft Soda Co.
The average ticket is around $20, Noveshen said.
Technology is an important aspect of the chain, and has been since day one. The first Starbird opened with an app that customers could use to order ahead and simply pick up their product once they arrived, an idea that was still fairly new in 2016. Noveshen soon found that experience to be superior to drive-thrus, so he was able to expand the concept without drive-thru windows.
Design was always important, too, Noveshen said. He describes Starbird as “pure, simple, and clean,” with natural woods, bright yellows and great lighting to create a welcoming experience.
Starbird has now grown to 12 locations, with two more planned for Southern California this year and another three planned for Northern California in 2024. Noveshen said that was likely the year that they would announce their first franchise deal, too.
“We’re really excited to partner with the type of franchise groups that understand what it means to run high volume … and to manage high quality.”
And the volume is high: Noveshen said that the restaurants, which average around 2,000 square feet, gross $1,500-$2,000 per square foot annually, with ghost kitchens running around three times that.
And sales are growing. He said Starbird has seen same-store sales increase by more than 25% annually for the past four years.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]