Dave’s Hot Chicken taps Milwaukee-based restaurant group for area expansion

14 restaurants planned across southeastern Wisconsin

Photo credit: Dave's Hot Chicken

Last updated on October 14th, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Eight months after announcing its intent to enter the Wisconsin market, Los Angeles-based fast-casual chain Dave’s Hot Chicken has signed a 14-unit franchise deal with Milwaukee-based Roaring Fork Restaurant Group.

Over the next 6 years, the hospitality group will open 14 restaurant locations in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Green Bay and the Fox River Valley, according to a news release. Exact locations are still in the works, but the team is seeking 2,000- to 2,500-square-foot endcap spaces and freestanding locations, with drive-thru infrastructure as a bonus.

Dave’s specializes in Nashville-style hot chicken, including tenders and sliders. What started as a parking lot pop-up in 2017 has grown into a fast-casual brand, with more than 240 units committed within one year of franchising. The company currently has 36 locations open or in development in the U.S. and Canada and will open an additional 30 to 40 locations this year.

Led by Mike Pranke and Ron Stokes, Roaring Fork is the largest Qdoba franchise in the country, with 58 stores across Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. Having followed the growth of Dave’s Hot Chicken, Stokes did some research and decided his company should buy in to the brand. The company signed its franchise deal under the entity name, MR Chicken LLC.

“The Nashville hot chicken category is huge right now and Dave’s is on the forefront of it,” said Stokes. “We are excited to bring the intense flavorings that Dave’s has to offer to Wisconsin for more people to enjoy.”

Dave’s entry into southeastern Wisconsin is part of larger plans to gain a foothold in the Midwest. In selecting key expansion markets, the company said in March that it was drawn to Milwaukee’s local consumer base, real estate opportunities and strong business community. Once a deal is signed, the opening timeline is about 12 to 18 months.

“Wisconsin is a key state to us further establishing ourselves in the Midwest,” said Bill Phelps, CEO of Dave’s Hot Chicken. “Operators like Mike and Ron have the right kind of business acumen and knowledge of the area to help us establish a solid base. I’m excited for the people of Wisconsin to try our product and believe in the hype we’ve generated.” 

Get our email updates

Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

No posts to display