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bb.q Chicken banks on authenticity and diverse formats

The global Korean fried chicken restaurant is on track to enter seven new states this year

South Korean fried chicken chain bb.q Chicken had a banner year in the U.S. in 2021, growing from 51 units to 86 and enjoying a total sales increase from $54.2 million to $76.9 million.

The all-franchised chain, which has more than 3,500 restaurants in 57 countries globally, is poised to grow to 150 domestic locations this year and 250 by the end of 2023, said CEO Joseph Kim.

“bb.q stands for ‘best of the best quality,’” he said. “We are committed to serving only the most authentic and delicious Korean fried chicken and [other Korean food]. Our goal is to give customers a taste of Seoul.”

Founded in 1995, the chain arrived in the U.S. in 2014, serving a dozen different fried chicken flavors, ranging from standard unsauced chicken pieces and wings to “Cheesling,” with a powdered cheese topping, and “Gangnam Style” with a black pepper sauce, green onions, garlic and peppers. Other options include kalbi style, mimicking the marinade for Korean grilled short ribs and garnished with green onions and sesame seeds, and a limited-time offer now available called Maple Crunch — boneless or traditional wings in a glaze of butter, garlic and maple syrup.

The chain also offers traditional Korean dishes such as kimchi fried rice and ddeok-bokki — a spicy stew of rice cakes and fish cakes with onions and scallions. Sides include fries, onion rings and cheese sticks as well as fried dumplings, corn salad and pickled radish.

Franchisees can opt for the takeout-only bb.q Chicken Express, the fast-casual bb.q Chicken Café, or the bb.q Chicken and Beer, which has full table service and a bar.

“This year we’ll open our first bb.q Smart Kitchen, or BSK for short, where customers will order electronically and our team will place complete orders in food lockers,” Kim added. “This means faster service for customers and lower labor cost for the operator.”

Kim attributes the success of the past year to the chain’s authenticity and its commitment to educating franchisees.

“These are also the two main reasons why we are different,” he said.

“Many international food brands change their food to be more American when they franchise in the United States,” he added. “bb.q Chicken doesn’t do this. Our food is always authentically Korean. We blend our sauces the same way in the U.S. as in our locations in Seoul.”

Additionally, franchisees are trained at the chain’s Chicken University, which was opened in South Korea in 1999 for research and development as well as franchise education.

“Chicken University gives our franchisees the knowledge they need to be successful,” Kim added, saying that the company has long held the philosophy that it thrives when its franchisees do.

Kim said that, apart from the first BSK opening in 2022, Bb.q Chicken is on track to expand to seven new states: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma.

The chain is also launching a new website in the second quarter, which Kim said he hopes will attract more franchisees and customers.

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