There is so much new Chick N Max news, it’s hard to know where to begin.
In brief: There are several new restaurants in the works along with a company headquarters in Delano and a related concept called Counter Kitchen that will open under the same roof.
“My phrase is you eat the elephant one bite at a time,” says Max Sheets, who started the concept with a silent partner.
“You just do what you need to do as it comes up . . . on each project.”
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The chain started in January with a restaurant on Hillside just south of Central. A second one opened in the Village at Greenwich at 21st and Greenwich in April.
“They’re doing great,” Sheets says. “Having fun.”
Construction will start in the next week or two on the new Chick N Max going in Fox Ridge Plaza, Marv Schellenberg’s center with Petland on North Maize Road just south of 37th Street.
“It’ll be our first store to have a drive-through, and we’re really excited about that,” Sheets says. “We think that’s going to be significant.”
Going forward, he plans for every Chick N Max to have a drive-through, which is the hold-up at Twin Lakes at 21st and Amidon, where Chick N Max is going in the same building as Huddle House. Sheets says he’s waiting on a zoning variance for a drive-through.
Sheets says the North Maize Road site makes a lot of sense because “it hooks us right into Maize, and we want to be a big part of that growing northwest Wichita area.”
Sheets also plans a Chick N Max for the new Spaghetti Works District downtown, which officially breaks ground Aug. 23.
“It’s really going to be good for downtown Wichita,” Sheets says. “We’re real excited about going downtown.”
He’s also looking for a site near the airport and eyeing a couple of possible sites in south Wichita.
“There’s good opportunity over there,” says Sarah Selmon, vice president of public relations and marketing. “There’s just less competition and more demand.”
A Chick N Max should open on the south side by the first or second quarter of next year.
“We’re kind of waiting to see how this Twin Lakes deal falls,” Sheets says. “We’re kind of treading water.”
As a start-up, Sheets says, he has to space out deals to do one at a time.
One deal that’s not in the works, though it could still happen, is for a Chick N Max at Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus, as Sheets had planned.
“With a brand-new concept, you really start to learn who your customer is and where they’re coming from,” Sheets says.
For now, he says, he’s watching how the new campus unfolds.
Brad Saville of Landmark Commercial Real Estate is handling Chick N Max’s real estate.
“We are excited to see this concept expand to West Wichita,” he said in an e-mail. Saville said Maize and North Maize Road are “under served with quality dining options and we think this will do great and be well received.”
Saville also helped Sheets with his future Chick N Max headquarters in 3,500 square feet at 447 N. Walnut, which is the southwest corner of Kiowa and Walnut in Delano.
“We really think this is a little area on the rise,” Selmon says.
The building is tucked back about half a block down from Merle’s Place on Seneca.
“We really didn’t need retail storefront space,” Selmon says. “We just kind of wanted to be near the action.”
She says the building will serve three purposes.
“Corporate offices for Chick N Max, warehouse distribution here in the front, and then in the back is going to be a test kitchen that we use for Chick N Max about 24 to 30 hours a week. Then we’re going to rent it out as commercial kitchen space.”
That’s the Counter Kitchen. She says that could be for budding caterers, food truck operators and people who want to test ideas.
“It’s just such an expensive up-front investment to start your own kitchen that we think this can kind of be an incubator space where they can tweak their concept, get it to be really viable and then maybe grow out on their own,” Selmon says.
She says they’re considering $25 an hour for members who can reserve kitchen time online and get a key code for using the space “so they can come and go at their leisure.”
Kodi Koerner, Chick N Max’s vice president of culinary and training, will be available for consulting in the kitchen.
The new space will open up a lot of opportunities for Chick N Max, Sheets says.
“We’re really going to use this big time as a commissary,” he says. “It’s all our recipes. It just makes sense. ... Everything will distribute out of here, so it will be very consistent.”
He remembers a friend of his with the national chain Mimi’s Cafe telling him about a similar operation.
“He said, ‘Max, the next thing you know, we had 500-gallon soup kettles because it went so well.’ ”
Chick N Max does a lot of product testing and catering as well, all of which now take up restaurant time.
“This will consolidate everything,” Sheets says.
“We’re watching more and more caterings come in every week, and it’ll take a lot of pressure off the stores by having this available.”
Since January, Sheets has added new items to the menu, including a salad.
“You’ve got to try the sun-dried tomato vinaigrette,” he says.
“I just get ranch,” Selmon says, “but I hear it’s good.”
Koerner notes that she’s sticking with the traditional chicken accompaniment.
Sheets and Selmon acknowledge that they could run out of space for their testing and catering plus whoever wants to rent the kitchen.
“We hope that happens,” she says.
Sheets says he may have to get more room at some point.
He laughs and says, “Damn the bad luck.”