Slim Pickens at this former Carl’s Jr.

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today we’re taking a look at a Carl’s Jr. turned Slim Chickens and discussing some shared problems. Starting off with some history, the restaurant building currently standing at 9599 S Main St, Houston, TX 77025, was constructed in 2015, replacing an older structure on the same site. The building was initially constructed as Tinsley’s Chicken ‘n Rolls in 1983. In 1985 Church’s Chicken purchased Tinsley’s, and company-owned stores, like this one, would switch over quickly to the Church’s brand. While I can’t say I ever had a chance to visit Tinsley’s, I can say for sure that Church’s shared the same problems later fast food operators here would have too. It wasn’t the location, building, or anything physical. Instead, it was the way fast food restaurants operate. The basic concept of fast food is that rather than a cook-to-order restaurant, most portions of your meal are pre-cooked and kept in a hot hold until needed. The food is only meant to be kept for a set amount of time set by the corporate office. Anything left over should be thrown out, and new food cooked to replace it. This process shouldn’t have been much of a problem for the two fried chicken joints that first inhabited this site early on. The chicken was cheap, but as time went on and prices grew, and a lax corporate structure allowed franchisees to ignore certain corporate practices.

In the early 2010s, Carl’s Jr. began a push into Houston. The company had been in the state years ago but never had any stores in Houston. At the start, the stores were company owned and operated. However, they would be quickly passed through a handful of different franchisees. While fresh food wasn’t an issue at first, that became one of Carl’s Jr’s biggest flaws early on. Further issues with this chain may have possibly been related to a subfranchising agreement that seems to have existed. Unfortunately, Carl’s Jr. could not make it through even the start of the pandemic before folding Houston operations (I actually liked their breakfast). Due to multiple circumstances, it has taken years to get many of these buildings reused, with a few still sitting vacant as of this article. Slim Chickens has taken the lion’s share of the vacant Carl’s Jr. locations. The Arkansas-based answer to the regional chicken finger chain conundrum originally debuted in the area with a location at the unbuilt Katy Grand Mall in 2015. Even after a local franchisee was found, corporate held onto the Katy location for a few years. They seemed to use it as a base of operations for expansions through a number of franchisees which quickly faltered. These new Slim Jrs. all represent work by a new franchisee. It seems that the previous franchise agreement required new locations to be built, possibly leading the cause for the dropping of locations. This new franchisee is an already prominent Houston Sonic franchisee owning over 50 locations throughout the area. However, it seems that under this new setup, quality control has dropped, and we’re back to the fresh food issue. We’ll see how long Slim Chickens sticks around, but it doesn’t seem to be in any great danger compared to, say, Fuddruckers…