Birds of a feather

San Antonio-born chicken chain’s sister brands hatch major international expansion

San Antonio-born chicken chain’s sister brands hatch major expansion

Church's Chicken
Church's Chicken's two sister brands are hatching a major worldwide expansion. Photo courtesy of Church's Chicken

Texas Chicken and Church’s Texas Chicken, two sister brands of San Antonio-born Church’s Chicken, are spreading their wings in a big way.

Texas Chicken and Church’s Texas Chicken — the international brands of Church’s Chicken — are collectively set to open 100 restaurants this year in the Americas, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Major markets targeted in the expansion include Canada, Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia. Texas Chicken plans to enter the Egyptian market in 2023.

This year’s 100-store expansion follows the opening last year of a flagship Texas Chicken restaurant in Doha, Qatar. The franchised location greatly exceeded sales projections, the company says.

“Quick-service chicken is a fast-growing segment with tremendous opportunity for growth in almost every corner of the world,” Ignacio Barbadillo, who’s been tapped to lead the international growth of Texas Chicken and Church’s Texas Chicken, says in a news release. “Our differentiated, high-quality product, along with the company’s ambitious plans for growth and the genuine love its people have for the brand, are what attracted me to this incredibly exciting role.”

Items on the restaurants’ menu include hand-battered, double-breaded original and spicy chicken, scratch-made honey butter biscuits, sandwiches, wraps, side dishes, and desserts.

Altogether, Church’s Chicken, Texas Chicken, and Church’s Texas Chicken have more than 1,500 locations in 26 countries, including 36 Church’s restaurants in San Antonio. Systemwide sales exceed $1 billion. The restaurants’ parent company is based in Atlanta.

George W. Church founded Church’s Chicken in San Antonio. He opened the first location in 1952 near The Alamo; at the outset, it sold only fried chicken. The company says Church “planted the seeds for what would one day become a world-renowned franchise.”

Church died in Austin in 1956. His sons subsequently took over the fast-food chain, which had four locations when Church passed away. Six years later, the company grew to eight locations in San Antonio. By 1968, it had 17 locations in five Texas cities. Franchising started in 1976.

In the face of stiff competition, Church’s shuttered more than 100 restaurants in the 1980s. In 1989, the New Orleans-based owner and founder of the Popeyes chicken chain succeeded in his drawn-out effort to buy out Church’s. But only two years later, creditors that were owed almost $400 million pushed Popeyes and Church’s into bankruptcy court.

Following approval of a bankruptcy reorganization plan by a federal judge in Austin, Popeyes and Church’s emerged under new ownership based in Atlanta.

San Diego-based investment firm High Bluff Capital Partners purchased the Church’s family of brands from San Francisco-based investment firm FFL Partners in 2021. High Bluff also owns the Quiznos and Taco Del Mar restaurant chains.