Spicing Up the QSR Scene: The Journey of Fry the Coop’s Joe Fontana

In this episode of the QSR Experience podcast, Bobby Marhamat interviews Joe Fontana, owner of Fry the Coop, a successful Nashville hot chicken joint in Chicago. Joe shares his journey from valet to restaurateur, how he transitioned back to hospitality, and his ambitious goals for Fry the Coop’s future.

Key Topics Discussed:

  • Joe’s background and start in the hospitality industry.
  • The decision to leave corporate life and return to the world of food.
  • The inception of Fry the Coop and its rapid growth to seven locations.
  • Inspiration behind Fry the Coop’s focus on chicken sandwiches and a simple menu.
  • Building a company culture that values people over numbers.
  • Joe’s goal to open 75 stores in the Midwest over the next ten years.
  • The challenges and rewards of expanding the Fry the Coop brand.

Join Bobby Marhamat and Joe Fontana as they discuss the inspiring story behind Fry the Coop, and explore the passion and drive needed to succeed in the competitive restaurant industry on the QSR Experience podcast brought to you by Raydiant.

Guest Quotes: 

“We always planned on doing that because when I told my wife, like, hey, we’re going to go back to the wintertime in Chicago and sell our beautiful house in California. So it was always the plan to go from one to two to three. But I think I was in the restaurant originally when we opened it up every single day for, god, nine months, almost a year. And then we kind of had set up the systems and processes to free me up to go open our second location. And then once you do that, it’s kind of like jumping off the cliff and building wings on the way down because you don’t really know what you have to do until you do that.” 

“We always wanted the brand to be classic, more so than trendy, because I know Nashville Hot Chicken was like very trendy the past couple of years. And I thought, God, how In and out Burger is very classic. It’s that old school. And so that was kind of where the brand was centered around, was this idea of coming up with like a classic chicken sandwiches and french fries joint and still to this day, we kind of pride ourselves on that and kind of creating a little more of a dive bar.” 

“The problem that we’re solving is essentially like fast food kind of sucks, right? It’s made in some factory in New Jersey. It’s frozen. So I think just making real food that is kind of jumping on that whole fast casual ideology where we bring in the best ingredients we could find and we actually make the food from scratch in the back. So I love that idea that you’re getting real food and it’s not some frozen piece of junk that is going to make you hurt your stomach or give you high blood pressure immediately.” 

“If you went around and asked every single employee in your company what are our core values? or what’s our secret sauce, right? And if you went around and asked everybody, most companies, and I would say maybe over 90% of companies, if you asked every employee in the whole business what the secret sauce is, almost every one of them would give you a different answer. So I was really conscious of that. And we made our secret sauce around three basic things and this is for every restaurant, really, but it’s great food, great service, and great cleanliness.” 

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