Krispy Krunchy Chicken has entered the competitive quick-serve, deep-fried chicken market in central Ohio.
The area's first location is in a three-storefront strip mall at East North Broadway and Interstate 71 that also includes a Sunoco gas station with a convenience store and a Subway restaurant.
Nick Vlasidis, who opened the 1,100-square-foot store at 700 E. North Broadway, said he was looking for a concept that could deliver high-quality food in a high-volume area. He originally planned to open a place called Chix & Fries, but a franchise agreement with Subway wouldn't allow it.
While at a trade show in Las Vegas, he was impressed by Krispy Krunchy Chicken's business model, which he describes as a cross between Chick-fil-A and Raising Cane's.
"It was incredible," he said. "The line was out the door."
The restaurant is known for its fresh, never-frozen Cajun-style chicken tenders and wings fried in zero-trans-fat oil. Also on the menu are shrimp, fish, Buffalo-style chicken wings, breakfast items and eight signature dipping sauces.
Based in Alexandria, La., the chain, which has more than 1,500 locations in 32 states, is growing at a rate of nine per week.
"Our growth is phenomenal," said Dan Shapiro, executive vice president of Krispy Krunchy. "We added 500 locations last year and are up to 266 locations so far this year."
Neal Onebane founded the company in 1989 inside a convenience store he owned in Lafayette, La. Most are located in convenience stores, Shapiro said.
However, Vlasidis' store is slightly different.
"I made it kind of like a regular quick-serve restaurant," Vlasidis said. "It's really cool-looking and modern."
Krispy Krunchy doesn't offer franchises, per se, but "geographic protection," which allows the initial operator the right to refuse others who want to open stores in the area. Vlasidis said he isn't sure what his expansion plans are yet.
The Columbus store, which has a drive-through, takes over 1,100 square feet of space and seats 16. Vlasidis is partners with his father-in-law, Jim Mandas, who once owned the now-closed Boulevard Grills in Columbus.
Food is only part of the equation, Vlasidis said.
"Treat people they way you want to be treated when you walk through the front door," he said. "Service is No. 1."
The Columbus location is open lunch and dinner hours daily.
Bleu & Fig has found a permanent location in Clintonville.
The catering outfit is opening an event space in a 2,700-square-foot storefront at 4622 N. High St.
Owners Brooke Kinsey and Regina Prange said it will take six to eight weeks to completely redevelop the property at the northeast corner of High Street and Garden Road.
The new space will give the company more visibility and a private facility that can serve up to 50 guests.
"Our clients, a lot of them, are looking for space to hold an event," Kinsey said.
Bleu & Fig has been around four years and does its catering out of the Food Fort at the Economic and Community Development Institute on the East Side.
The Clintonville store was the long-time home to the Beechwold Pharmacy, one of the last independent pharmacies in central Ohio and one of the few remaining places that had a soda fountain. It was later replaced by two separate flower stores.
Prager said she likes the warmth of the place, which features two large picture windows near the front door.
"It's got a welcoming feel," she said. "This is much more fun than a shopping center."
The long-term plan is to add a professional kitchen at the Clintonville store. While there are no plans to open a restaurant at the location, the women are considering adding pop-up brunches a couple of times a week.