Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits has opened a new location in East Brainerd as the first of three restaurants opening this year on a stretch of Gunbarrel Road near Hamilton Place mall.
Popeyes opened its newest restaurant last week at 1796 Gunbarrel Road on the site of a former Golden Corral restaurant, which was torn down last year. Also on that site, Panda Express, the fast-casual Chinese restaurant, plans to relocate its East Brainerd location to gain a bigger location with a drive-through window.
Panda Express is currently located four blocks to the north at 2260 Gunbarrel Road.
Next door to the new Popeyes and Panda Express, a Longhorn Steakhouse is also being built on the site of the former Shogun Japanese Steakhouse.
Chattanooga developer Bassam Issa, who bought the Gunbarrel Road properties last year for the three new restaurants, said the site is ideal, near Chattanooga's biggest shopping mall at Hamilton Place and near Interstate 75 and other nearby commercial and housing developments.
"I think any restaurant chain in our market wants to be on Gunbarrel Road and being in the same shopping center as Target and Kohl's makes this an ideal site," Issa said in a telephone interview Monday.
Issa, who holds the ground lease for each of the three new restaurants, said he expects the Panda Express and Longhorn Steakhouse restaurants to be built and opened later this year. Popeyes opened its new unit March 27.
The three new restaurants will be sandwiched between Panera Bread and Chick-fil-A along the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Gunbarrel Road just north of East Brained Road.
Site work is also underway for a new Popeyes near Northgate Mall at the southwest corner of Highway 153 and Hamill Road in Hixson, Issa said.
But Popeyes has closed other local outlets in Brainerd and the Southside.
The Popeyes at 5749 Brainerd Road has had a "temporarily closed" sign outside the building near the Eastgate Town Center for the past year. The Popeyes' first unit in Chattanooga at 3352 South Broad Street closed earlier this year after nearly 22 years of operation.
The chicken chain continues to operate other local Popeyes restaurants on Highway 58 and in East Ridge.
Bojangles, which closed its store on Hixson Pike in August after operating there for four decades, also recently shut down its longtime fast-food chicken restaurant on 23rd Street.