Chicken In a Barrel Sets Its Sights on Santa Barbara for California Expansion

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Chicken In a Barrel Sets Its Sights on Santa Barbara for California Expansion
Chicken In a Barrel Sets Its Sights on Santa Barbara for California Expansion
The Hawaiian-based restaurant is bringing its unique brand to the Mainland.

Chicken in a Barrel has been a Hawaiian treasure for the past seven years, winning the hearts (and stomachs) of Kauai island locals and tourists alike. With outdoor picnic tables shaded by umbrellas and a pick-up window with a friendly face ready to give customers their food, the aloha-style concept with just two Hawaii locations offers a unique dining experience that’s hard to find anywhere else.

By the end of 2017, Chicken in a Barrel will open its first franchise location in Santa Barbara, California, and is looking to grow within a 100-mile radius from there in cities like Ventura and Oxnard.

“We’re excited to get on the mainland, and Santa Barbara is the best place for us to start,” said Brent Bierma, Chicken in a Barrel co-owner. “It has a very similar vibe to Hawaii: it’s a surfer town, the weather is perfect for an outdoor restaurant and there are a lot of families, which fits well into our strong family culture. Also, Santa Barbara is so much denser than Hawaii, so there’s definitely a market for our concept.”

What makes Chicken in a Barrel so unique is that they literally prepare meat in barrels, which results in chicken that is both moist and flavorful. It’s a cooking style that founder and owner Mike Pierce spent 35 years perfecting before turning it into a business. The menu boasts crowd pleasers like baby back ribs, pulled pork and authentic Mexican food made with their chicken, which they’ve dubbed “Mexicue.”

According to Alex and Jennifer Vilera of Santa Barbara, Chicken in a Barrel’s first franchisees, the demand for the restaurant is already there.

“The whole community is excited about the opening,” says Jennifer Vilera. “It’s really common for people from Santa Barbara to vacation in Kauai, so we’re finding that a lot of people are already familiar with the brand and want a location here as much as Alex and I do! The food itself is fantastic, but the people, atmosphere and purpose of spreading the love of God is what has us most thrilled about serving our neighbors.”

The Vileras will open their Roadside Express location in the Old Town Goleta neighborhood by the end of 2017, and hope to become multi-unit operators over the next few years. When partnering with Chicken in a Barrel, franchisees can choose to open an outdoor-style concept, called Roadside Express, or a full-service restaurant concept. For the Roadside Express buildout, the franchisee investment ranges from $244,510 to $395,208, whereas the full-service restaurant has an investment ranging from $497,100 to $687,500

“We think that once Chicken in a Barrel is on the mainland and more people know about it, it’s going to eventually be everywhere,” says Alex Vilera. “It’s just one of those family-owned restaurants with a laid back vibe and a good variety of really great food.”