Top 12 Chicken Franchises to Buy in 2023
Turn your fried chicken obsession into a business by buying into one of the top chicken franchises.
Although trends, especially in the food industry, typically die down over time, one market garnered so much popularity, it became its own franchise category: chicken. Popularity skyrocketed in 2019 during the "chicken sandwich wars," when Popeyes released a new fried chicken sandwich that was relatively unknown until Chick-fil-A touted its sandwich as the original. Not only did Popeyes and Chick-fil-A see an increase in revenue, but other concepts also began introducing their own competing chicken products to the point where some franchises are committed to chicken alone. If you're a fan of fried chicken — or any chicken — or simply want to jump into an exciting industry that continues to expand, a chicken franchise might be right for you.
These are the top 12 chicken franchises for 2023, based on our 44th Annual Franchise 500 List.
Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now and take this quiz to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.
1. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
Initial franchise fee: $50,000
Initial investment: $383,500 - $3,545,800
Number of U.S. franchise units: 2,786
Popeyes is one of the most successful QSRs (quick-service restaurants) in the United States, a country well-known for its fast-food businesses. Known for its New Orleans-style fried chicken, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen delivers excellent flavors at an appealing price.
In fact, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is one of the U.S.'s most popular fast food chains from New York to Texas to Florida. It is also popular outside of the United States, with more than 600 franchises internationally and 200 in Canada alone.
Initial franchise fee: $20,000
Initial investment: $315,310 - $948,080
Number of U.S. franchise units: 1,618
Wingstop is a casual food franchise that specializes in wings and french fries. Starting as a small buffalo wing shop in 1994, Wingstop began franchising in 1998. In 2002, it officially reached one billion wings served. The company has more than 1,200 franchises across the United States to go along with more than 100 international locations.
Wingstop's focus isn't just on wings — it strives to rule the flavor game, too. The brand wants to take wings to the next level, serving the freshest product with the sauciest flavors. And that's just the chicken. Their french fries are hand-cut and should be seasoned to perfection.
Initial franchise fee: $45,000
Initial investment: $1,440,600 - $3,163,550
Number of U.S. franchise units: 3,872
KFC is known for its bucket of fried chicken. This is commonly served with a couple of sides to make a full meal for an individual or family. Although this comfort food is the restaurant's core, new things are also added to the menu bringing a nice balance of familiarity and adventure.
The company wants people who are motivated and committed. KFC franchisees can expect hands-on involvement with the day-to-day tasks in this business. There is also a high focus on improving, simplifying and innovating to satisfy customers. This could be a good option if you are ready to go all-in for a company that values improvement.
4. Slim Chickens
Initial franchise fee: $15,000
Initial investment: $1,307,000 - $4,052,000
Number of U.S. franchise units: 126
Whether it is chicken tenders, wings or wraps, the mission of Slim Chickens is to serve the best hand-breaded chicken using the freshest ingredients. Since its inception in 2003, the foundation for Slim Chickens has always been serving customers the best meals with 100 percent all-natural premium tenderloins.
Slim Chickens strives to be known to go above and beyond in creating its food. Slim Chickens franchise locations serve main course chicken meals with side dishes including southern-fried pickles or fried mushrooms. Customers might want to save room for delicious strawberry cheesecake and chocolate brownie desserts. As a fun change of pace, all items are typically served in mason jars.
5. Golden Chick
Initial franchise fee: $30,000
Initial investment: $982,450 - $1,702,500
Number of U.S. franchise units: 198
Golden Chick first opened under the name Golden Fried Chicken in 1967 in San Marcos, Texas. In 1996, the name changed to Golden Chick, and new menu items, including golden roasted chicken, were added. There are more than 175 Golden Chick outlets across the U.S., with franchise opportunities available in different locations.
Many Golden Chick franchisees consider investing in this company to be a golden opportunity. Golden Chick franchisees come from different backgrounds: There are military veterans, owners with franchise experience and corporate professionals, each adding unique experiences to their franchises.
Initial franchise fee: $20,000 - $35,000
Initial investment: $577,000 - $3,020,750
Number of U.S. franchise units: 496
Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits is known for its impressive selection of menu items, including the Cheddar Bo biscuits and melted butter and buttermilk biscuits with country ham, chicken filet, steak, bacon, cheese or jelly. The company, which started as a neighborhood space for friends and family to meet, has become the leader in the chicken franchise industry. Apart from being one of the most well-known companies in the industry, what may make Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits a terrific opportunity is its limitless number of loyal customers.
Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits operates in a well-thought-out model that attempts to stay a step ahead of its competitors. The franchise emphasizes making strong sales during all three parts of the day. By starting this franchise, you will be joining a business that has built a reputation of franchise support and cooperation for more than 40 years.
Initial franchise fee: $35,000
Initial investment: $501,700 - $950,200
Number of U.S. franchise units: 768
Zaxby's is a casual restaurant that offers buffalo wings, sandwiches, chicken fingers and salads. The chain is predominantly active in the southern United States and has more than 900 outlets. Franchisees own the majority of Zaxby's restaurants, but the company maintains more than 140 locations.
A great candidate for a Zaxby's franchisee is someone who may provide opportunities for others and be an outstanding member of their community. Someone who maintains high standards and never compromises on quality, service and effort may be valued as a franchisee. Zaxby's values loyalty, teamwork and honesty from their franchisees.
8. Champs Chicken
Initial franchise fee: $0
Initial investment: $9,000 - $349,000
Number of U.S. franchise units: 424
Founded in 1999, Champs Chicken prides itself on coming from humble beginnings. The company began in the founders' garage in Missouri with the idea of "doing things better." Now, Champs Chicken has expanded to hundreds of locations across the country. The brand's guiding principles are amazing service, ultimate food experience and having a blast.
Initial franchise fee: $0
Initial investment: $15,950 - $288,118
Number of U.S. franchise units: 1,047
Chester's, which was founded in 1952, is a quick-serve restaurant that sells fresh, never frozen, marinated chicken that's double-breaded and fried using a secret family recipe. There are more than 1,300 locations in convenience stores, truck stops and supermarkets. After more than 50 years of business, Chester's employees know how to fry with love and are happy to share what they do.
When you open a Chester's franchise, you may become part of a company that believes in a winning attitude. No one is above a job, and most work and win as a team. They are also committed to open and honest communication, encouraging everyone to do the right thing, even if no one is watching. And though they emphasize that hard work is the right kind of work, Chester's strives to foster a fun atmosphere.
10. Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken
Initial franchise fee: $40,000
Initial investment: $483,245 - $1,187,229
Number of U.S. franchise units: 114
Many people love to sink their teeth into crunchy pieces of fried chicken dripping with succulent juices. Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken understands the love for good fried chicken with a memorable crunch to boot. This franchise with South Korean roots was born from the desire of Jinduk Seo to share flavorful chicken recipes with the world in 2002.
When you open a Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken franchise, you will own part of a dream that led one man to create signature Asian dishes in the U.S. The franchisor offers varied dining experiences, including traditional sit-down restaurants, sports bars and quick-service restaurants appealing to families, corporates and busy professionals alike.
11. Chicken Salad Chick
Initial franchise fee: $50,000
Initial investment: $742,300 - $980,300
Number of U.S. franchise units: 157
Chicken Salad Chick was founded in 2008 by Stacy Brown, a stay-at-home mom who made chicken salad to sell in her neighborhood. However pure her intentions, the local county health department restricted her from running the business from her home kitchen.
The Chicken Salad Chick franchise is uniquely positioned; it is the only restaurant chain specializing in homemade, fresh chicken salad in a fast-casual space. Each of its restaurants offers a wide range of sandwiches, desserts, soups and chicken salad made with fresh, quality ingredients. The company is committed to offering more than just a delicious meal to keep customers coming back.
12. Buffalo Wild Wings
Initial franchise fee: $25,000
Initial investment: $2,481,500 - $4,604,800
Number of U.S. franchise units: 534
Wings, beer and sports — the three things Buffalo Wild Wings is most known for. Founded in 1982 and franchising since 1991, Buffalo Wild Wings has become one of the largest casual dining restaurants in the world. With franchises in the U.S., Canada, India, Mexico, Oman, Panama, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam, it is dedicated to bringing casual dining to everyone. Buffalo Wild Wings specializes in wings and specialty sauces.
As a Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee, you may join a global network of casual dining restaurants that are all striving to provide affordable food everyone can enjoy. You'll likely provide a place for people and families to come together and enjoy a great meal in a casual and fun environment.