A Vail company is betting it can do for fried chicken what Chipotle did for burritos.
Yellowbelly Chicken last week signed a lease on its fourth location, at the corner of Wadsworth and I-70 in Arvada. It plans to open by yearend.
“We’ve seen better burritos, we’ve seen better burgers, we’ve seen better pizza,” said Barry Davis, a restaurant owner who co-founded Yellowbelly alongside chef Eric Wuppermann and chief marketing officer Michael Friedberg in 2012. “It hadn’t happened in chicken.”
He said the differences between Yellowbelly and other fried chicken joints start with the chain’s supply of free range and hormone free chicken from Colorado Native Foods.
From there, Yellowbelly breads the chicken with rice flour that Davis said absorbs less oil. It fries the chicken using rice bran and extra virgin olive oil, and does so under pressure in order to decrease fry time.
Davis said the end product is tastier and less fatty than what other fried chicken chains serve.
“You can indulge with a little responsibility,” Davis said. “You don’t have to feel bad about eating it.”
The store sells fried and roasted chicken along with seasonal sides. A fried white meat entrée costs $5.50. Sides start at $3.
The Arvada store at 7450 W. 52nd Ave. will seat 50 people indoors and 32 people outdoors. Marc Feder of Feder Commercial was the tenant’s broker in lease negotiations.
The architect designing the store is Patrick McMichael of Track Architecture. Yellowbelly has not chosen a general contractor yet.
Since it started five years ago, Yellowbelly opened three stores: one in Vail, one in Boulder and its most recent addition at the Stanley Market Place in Aurora.
Yellowbelly is also spreading its name through grocery stores and catering.
The chain will also start selling in Whole Foods this December with a vending stall at the grocery store’s Belmar Mall location in Lakewood. Davis said the placement will familiarize customers with the brand and will help to market it as a healthier alternative to other fried chickens.
“Belmar is going to drive thousands of eyes past our product,” Davis said.
Secondly, Yellowbelly wants to beef up its catering business. Davis said the goal is to grow its catering service until it accounts for 15 percent of sales.
Davis said Yellowbelly became profitable in 2016, but its appetite for expansion takes cash. The company sold $792,000 in equity to small investors, he said, a capital raise the company also recorded in a filing with the SEC dated July 5.
The money will go toward opening more locations in Whole Foods stores and standalone locations. Davis said he wants to put 10 to 20 locations in the Denver area before taking its chicken brand to other corners of the Front Range in the next five years.
Yellowbelly has also recruited Joe Serafin, a former COO of Noodles & Co., to take over as its chief operating officer and president.
Denver’s fried chicken scene is heating up. Yellowbelly will have competition from another local chicken chain, Birdcall, which opened this spring.