Franchise Takes Flight for Starbird


Photo courtesy of Starbird

Aaron Novoshen, CEO of 12-unit Starbird, thinks his cutting-edge, fast-casual chicken concept is ready for a new adventure.

Novoshen said documents are being finalized to open the brand to franchise as early as next month.

A successful licensing deal with an operator at San Francisco airport has proven that Starbird, which received a $12 million cash injection from private equity firm KarpReilly in November, can be run well by a franchisee , did he declare.

“With their tremendous success, we realized the time had come for Starbird,” he said. “We realized the time was right as the brand has been proven to have incredible sales traction and growth.”

Starbird has posted 25% year-over-year comparable store sales growth three years in a row, he said.

He said the chain would continue to open its own stores, but was considering franchising to accelerate the pace of its growth.

Starbird aims to double its number of units over the next 18 months, he said, with its first franchise stores likely to open in the first part of 2023. The chain also has four kitchens ghosts, with plans for growth in this area as well.

“It’s really TBD because it’s a new space,” he said. “We want to make sure we don’t build things without making sure everyone wins… It’s a long game. This is the next part of our business to really prove itself.

Starbird was founded in San Francisco in 2016 by restaurant consultancy The Culinary Edge, after Novoshen and its partners decided that chicken would be the restaurant industry’s next big growth area.

The chain also operates several virtual brands from its store, including Starbird Salads, Starbird Bowls, Starbird Wings, and Plant-Based Garden Bird.

“Our approach to virtual branding is really that mindset of a brand house,” he said. “We are Starbird first. We’ve really grown our Starbird Salad brand; it has been fantastic for us.

But, he said, “we are constantly evaluating the existing portfolio of virtual brands, making changes.”

Starbird may add new virtual concepts or current “twilight” concepts in the future, he said, especially with the franchise on the horizon.

“Our approach is not to create operational complexity,” he said.

Since its inception, Starbird has been known for its digital orientation. The concept does not currently work with a drive-thru, but Novoshen said there is potential to work with a partner to create a “drive-thru of the future” that prioritizes quick pickups using voice-recognition technology. .

Recently, the chain installed kiosks in all of its restaurants. They helped drive digital transactions to 85% of all sales, while increasing check averages, engagement, and overall satisfaction.

“We always want to meet the customer where they want to be met,” he said.

Right now, he said, Starbird is focused on finding the right franchise partners. The chain is looking for experienced multi-unit operators who have a proven track record with restaurants that have “high culinary appeal”, he said.

Ideally, Starbird would partner with franchisees who can teach the chicken chain as much as they will learn, Novoshen said.

“Big ideas come from operations,” he said. “People who are in there, in the trenches every day, always thinking of ways to do things more consistently. We have learned so much from our team members. By working with a franchised group, we would like to collaborate to improve ourselves every day.

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