Opening of Farmington Slim Chickens restaurant delayed until December, franchisee says

Dennis Ekstrom says construction issues have pushed back eatery's debut

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The restaurant will open at 3475 E. Main St. in Farmington.
  • The building that used to house a Serious Texas Bar-B-Q location is undergoing an extensive renovation.
  • To apply for a job, visit slimchickens.com.

FARMINGTON — The franchisee of an Arkansas-based fast-food chain who had intended to open a new location in Farmington by the end of the summer says his plans have been delayed, but he still hopes to be serving customers before Christmas.

Dennis Ekstrom, the owner of the Slim Chickens restaurant planned at 3475 E. Main St. in Farmington, said Oct. 29 that the eatery has a new targeted opening date of Dec. 13. Ekstrom originally told The Daily Times the restaurant would be open by late August or early September, but he said construction issues waylaid those plans.

"I had some real stumbling blocks with our contractors," he said. "I ended up firing one after losing several weeks. But now I've found the right company. We've started over, and here we go."

Motorists who have driven by the site over the past couple of weeks likely have noticed a flurry of activity at the one-time site of a Serious Texas Bar-B-Q location. Ekstrom said workers have been installing insulation and new siding over the past couple of days, and interior work has continued.

The interior of a Slim Chickens restaurant, a fast-food chain coming to Farmington that specializes in chicken tenders and wings.

He said the eatery is on a tight schedule to open by the middle of December, but he is optimistic about the chances of that happening.

"I'm extremely confident, but that's always been me," he said. "The reality side is, it's hard to trust people when you have so many contractors and so many things that could go wrong and derail that opening. But I'm confident we're going to make it."

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Ekstrom said he has a long list of things that must occur without delay for the restaurant to meet that deadline. If things get held up again, he said, he likely would postpone the opening of the eatery until early next year.

"If we get much past Dec. 15, you don't want to open at Christmas time," he said, noting the undesirability of beginning a new operation in the midst of the holidays.

"If we can't start training by the first week in December, we'd be forced to push things back until January," he said.

Slim Chickens operates more than 100 restaurants in the United States, and has locations in the United Kingdom and in Kuwait. It specializes in chicken tenders and wings, but it also serves sandwiches, salads, wraps, sides and desserts.

There are more than 100 Slim Chickens locations in the United States and others in locations ranging from the United Kingdom to Kuwait.

Ekstrom has said the building covers approximately 2,400 square feet, and he estimates he is investing approximately $1.4 million in renovation work, furnishings and equipment in the project.

He said supply train issues also have slowed down the project, but he has managed to work around most of those. Ekstrom said the company he originally approached about providing the eatery with a combination walk-in freezer and cooler told him it would take four months, but he was able to find another supplier to deliver the item in half that time. Another company told Ekstrom he would have to wait three months for a two-ton air conditioning unit, but the veteran restaurateur found another supplier that could meet his order in a more timely fashion.

Ekstrom said he has faced similar issues while trying to secure everything from stainless steel shelves to lighting fixtures. And as that equipment has become less available, many of the prices have increased, he said.

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"Costs have gone up at least 15%, if not more, on some items," he said.

That hasn't deterred Ekstrom, who operates more than a dozen eateries across New Mexico. His latest project, a Denny's diner that opened recently in Albuquerque, faced a major challenge in simply hiring enough workers at a time when many restaurants are facing a labor shortage.

But Ekstrom said his management team there hired 62 people in two and a half weeks, and he is confident he will be able to find all the help he needs for his Farmington project. In fact, he said, he already has put together a management team of five people for the Slim Chickens restaurant, and that group has 22 applications in hand from folks who have expressed interest in working at the eatery.

An extensive renovation project is continuing at the site of a new Slim Chickens restaurant at 3475 E. Main St. in Farmington.

The restaurant will open with a crew of 80 people, he said, noting that leaves plenty of workers still to be hired.

"It's going to be a challenge," he said.

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This will be the first Slim Chickens location in Farmington, and Ekstrom said he thinks the newness of the brand will offer him a bit of an advantage in hiring over other eateries.

"That helps create some excitement," he said. "It's magnetic. Some people see this as an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. … That does work in my benefit, for sure."

The Farmington franchise of Slim Chickens will employ 80 workers when it opens later this year, according to franchisee Dennis Ekstrom.

Ekstrom said the Farmington Slim Chickens location will be accepting applications through November, with training scheduled to start on approximately Dec. 6. Anyone interested in applying for a job at the eatery is encouraged to apply online at slimchickens.com or drop by the restaurant and speak to a member of the management team.

Signage for the new restaurant likely will not go up until early December, he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.