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Contributed photo by Huey Magoo / Huey Magoo's chicken tenders restaurants typically cost $500,000 to $1.2 million to open and employ over 30 workers. The restaurant chain has a new franchise owner in Tennessee who plans to open five units from Chattanooga to Charleston, Tennessee by 2024.

A Florida-based restaurant chain famous for its chicken tender meals is moving into Southeast Tennessee with plans to open five restaurants in Chattanooga, Cleveland and Charleston, Tennessee over the next three to four years.

Huey Magoo's, which started in Orlando, Florida in 2004 and under new ownership four years ago has undergone a rapid expansion effort, announced Monday it is adding franchise locations in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Company officials declined to disclose the new franchise owner in Tennessee, but the company said it continues to sell its franchises to a variety of restaurant developers even amid a pandemic that has crippled some restaurateurs.

"In these challenging times, we feel incredibly fortunate that Huey Magoo's is in fact thriving with positive comp store sales, 120 franchises sold, more leases signed and restaurant openings set," said Andy Howard, CEO of Huey Magoo's. "As we further grow our footprint across the Southeast, our promise to everyone is that we will do everything we can to keep your family and ours safe and healthy while enjoying America's best chicken tenders."

Huey Magoo's offers dine-in, take out, delivery through third-party delivery services, drive-thru and curbside pickup (at participating restaurants). The restaurant is famous for its signature grilled, hand-breaded or "sauced" premium chicken tenders, farm fresh salads, sandwiches and wraps. Huey Magoo's says its tenders are all natural, with no antibiotics ever, no hormones, no steroids and no preservatives.

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Contributed photo / The popular 5-piece chicken tender meal sells for $7.99 or $8.99 "sauced."

Huey Magoo's currently operates 13 units in Florida, but the fast-food restaurant chain has plans to soon expand across the South.

Company spokesperson Ilene Lieber said Huey Magoo's is currently scouting locations in the Chattanooga area for its new restaurants. The typical unit costs $500,000 to $1.2 million to open, depending on if it's a strip center location or a full drive-thru location, and each location usually as 30 to 40 employees. The fast-food restaurants are open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

"With Huey Magoo's rapid expansion throughout the Southeast, opening in Chattanooga fits in great with the company's strategic growth plan," Lieber said.

The restaurant was started six years ago by Matt Armstrong and Thad Hudgens, two self-described southern boys who focused on making chicken tenders. The company launched an ambitious expansion effort after four former Wingstop executives, including Howard, bought the brand in 2016.

"Everybody claims they have the best tender on the market, I truly believe that we do," Howard told the industry trade publication QSR. "The special hand breading and marinade is done in the store each day. Some of our competitors only have fried, we have fried and grilled. That is the only protein that we do so we are very creative with the tender; you can get it in plain, with dips, in a salad, on a sandwich, in a wrap it's all based around that beautiful tender."

Under Huey Magoo's franchise plan, franchisees pay a $35,000 franchise fee, and the company takes a 5 percent royalty fee and a 2 percent marketing fee. That is far less upfront investment than most other franchised chains.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340

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