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This restaurant is on track to be the fastest growing chain ever.

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Screenshot: YouTube/Dave's Hot Chicken

Screenshot: YouTube/Dave’s Hot Chicken

It seems like we’ll never stop talking about fast food chicken sandwiches, but even amidst the biggest boom for the now popular menu item, there’s been a glaring void. Even when chains try to (literally) spice things up with items like the Mexican Chicken Sandwich or offer a DIY variety with your choice of dipping sandwiches, no big brand has brought Nashville hot chicken to the masses in sandwich form. Dave’s Hot Chicken stepped in to fill that void.

As the name suggests, grilled chicken is the main highlight of the chain, both in the sandwich and in the tenderloin. And that specificity is driving its success: The restaurant’s 100th location in five years opened in Brooklyn, New York, last month, reports QSR Magazine. This momentum makes Dave’s Hot Chicken one of the fastest growing chains in franchise history.

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A Brief History of Dave’s Hot Chicken

Dave’s Hot Chicken has an especially brief history because its very existence was brief. The restaurant started in 2017 in a Los Angeles parking lot as a pop-up with the goal of serving simple and delicious Nashville spicy chicken strips. Proprietor Dave is chef Dave Kopushyan, who trained under chef Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, one of California’s best-known fine dining establishments. Kopushyan decided to leave fancy dining to open a chicken stand with his best friends Arman Oganesyan, Tommy Rubenyan and Gary Rubenyan.

The parking lot popup gained an instant buzz, starting on Instagram. The fanfare was animated by a Eater article that came out just days after its first service with the headline, “East Hollywood’s New Late Night Hot Chicken Stand Might Blow Your Mind.” A year later, the chain opened its first physical store, decorated by local street artists. That aesthetic has stuck with subsequent locations, and as the business grew, it attracted well-known investors like Samuel L. Jackson, Drake, and Boston Red Sox president Tom Werner.

The menu has also remained relatively unchanged since the restaurant’s inception. Customers are presented with four meal options: two for chicken sandwiches (which Dave calls “sliders” even though they are medium-sized sandwiches) and two for chicken tenders. There are six accompaniments of your choice. Each sandwich or tender can be ordered with one of seven seasoning levels, ranging from “no seasoning” to “reaper”. Then, of course, there are the standard sodas, with the addition of milkshakes to temper the higher heat levels (just like we saw at the Shake Shack).

The focused menu and clear vision have made Dave’s Hot Chicken an easy and attractive concept to replicate across the country, especially in areas where other Nashville hot chicken options are unavailable.

The Future of Dave’s Hot Chicken

In 2022, Dave’s Hot Chicken went global, expanding to Canada, UAE and Qatar. And in 2023, the chain is set to grow even further, reaching the milestone of its 100th location. According to QSR Magazine, there are currently 620 locations in development, with 85 restaurants expected to debut globally this year, nearly doubling the chain’s current presence.

To help gain recognition, Dave’s launched its first advertising campaign in October 2022, in line with Drake’s 36th birthday. That day, Drake posted on his Instagram about a giveaway that allowed anyone who followed Dave’s Hot Chicken to win a free slider or tender. From there, Dave started running ads with the slogan “Don’t die before you try”. With the rapid expansion of the network underway, we will all be able to experience it soon.

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