This company has several places fried-chicken worshipers can flock to. Cajun Operating Company owns and operates Church's Chicken, the #3 quick-service chicken chain behind KFC (owned by YUM! Brands) and Popeyes (AFC Enterprises), with more than 1,700 locations in more than 20 countries. The restaurants specialize in fried chicken available with such side items as biscuits, fried okra, fries, and mashed potatoes. More than 250 of the locations are company-owned, while the rest are franchised. Church's Chicken was started in 1952 by retired chicken incubator salesman George Church as Church's Fried Chicken to Go. The company is owned by investment firm Friedman Fleischer & Lowe.
The company continues to expand its chain mostly through franchising efforts. It has big designs on international expansion as well, with a number of restaurants operating in Russia and the UK under the Texas Chicken brand. Church's introduced a modular building that will make new franchise locations easier and less expensive to build, as well as a new kiosk concept to expand its chicken outlets into such non-traditional venues as convention centers, movie theaters, and retail stores.
Church's total system sales are roughly $1.2 billion per year. As one of the top brands in the popular quick-service chicken segment, Church's competes for market share primarily through menu development and marketing efforts. The chain has undertaken efforts to position itself as an urban brand with emphasis on value. Church's has also added other new menu items, including a mini chicken sandwich to appeal to customers looking for food on the go.
San Francisco-based Friedman Fleischer & Lowe acquired the Church's Chicken chain from Arcapita Bank in 2009. The Atlanta-based investment bank sold the fast food business as part of an effort to raise needed capital. The deal was reported to be worth more than $300 million. Arcapita purchased the fast food business in 2004 from AFC for about $390 million. Friedman Fleischer has additional investments in such companies as Guardian Home Care and GeoVera Insurance.
Following the buyout, Friedman Fleischer promoted Mel Deane as CEO of the Church's Chicken business, replacing longtime chief Harsha Agadi. Deane, a foodservice industry veteran with a long track record working with Friedman Fleischer portfolio businesses, had been installed by the private equity firm as head of US operations. After serving as CEO since 2005, Agadi remained as chairman of Church's.
Once a public company, Church's Chicken had been acquired by Al Copeland Enterprises (then the operator of Popeyes) in 1989. The combined business fell into bankruptcy and was purchased by America's Favorite Chicken Company (AFC) in 1992. – less