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This Is the Fastest Growing Restaurant Chain in America, New Data Shows

This up-and-coming hot chicken brand is exploding in popularity.
FACT CHECKED BY Mura Dominko

Chicken was highly sought after during the pandemic. From wings to sandwiches, America could not get enough fried poultry. It's no surprise then that more than any other restaurant concept, fast-casual chicken chains were able to not only weather lockdown setbacks but grow sales by more than 24% in 2021, according to recent data.

California-based Dave's Hot Chicken laid a golden egg during that time. The restaurant chain, which famously started as a single parking-lot stand, saw a massive 262% increase in sales last year, according to Technomic's Top 500 chain restaurant data. It also managed to increase its size by 471%, going from just seven restaurants in 2020 to the 61 locations it currently operates in the U.S. These impressive stats have earned Dave's the title of fastest-growing chain in America.

With stores across 13 states, Dave's Hot Chicken has found success serving a simple menu of Nashville-style chicken tenders and sandwiches. Nashville-style is a southern style of hot fried chicken that is typically seasoned with a blend of cayenne pepper and served with a pickle to offset the heat. But Dave's prepares its chicken using chef-owner Dave Kopushyan's proprietary mix of spices, ranging from mild to "The Reaper."

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daves hot chicken location
Dave's Hot Chicken

While chicken wing orders inundated delivery apps and the Chicken Sandwich Wars brought every fast-food giant to the ring, Nashville hot chicken also started having a moment. Grubhub reported 327% year-over-year growth in hot chicken orders for the first half of 2021, according to Restaurant Business.

When Dave's Hot Chicken started in 2017, the timing couldn't have been better to get into the hot chicken game. In just two years, the company was able to bring on Bill Phelps, an industry veteran who started Blaze Pizza, as CEO. 

"Dave's Hot Chicken has one the greatest origin stories in the restaurant business, with the founders starting Dave's as a parking lot pop-up restaurant in Hollywood with a portable fryer and picnic tables from their backyards just five short years ago," Phelps said in a press release.

Startups like Dave's Hot Chicken weren't the only ones to get a piece of the chicken pie during that time. According to Technomic, Raising Cane's and Wingstop saw significant upticks in sales of 35% and 20% respectively during 2021, while mid-sized Chicken Salad Chick grew its sales by an impressive 45.6%.

Hot chicken fans can look forward to more from Dave's Hot Chicken as the company recently secured an investment from hip-hop star Drake, following other big-name backers like Tom Werner, the Boston Red Sox chairman, and actor Samuel L. Jackson.

Amber Lake
Amber Lake is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! and has a degree in journalism from UNF in Jacksonville, Florida. Read more