The untold truth of PDQ

Between Chick-fil-A, KFC, and Popeye's, we didn't think America had room for yet yet another fowl-themed fast food restaurant, yet here we are. But far from underwhelming our jaded palates, PDQ has so managed to make their variations on the theme of fried chicken tenders fresh and exciting. The chain's modest, yet steady growth trajectory is proof that America is taking notice, and that it likes what it tastes.

PDQ (which stands for People Dedicated to Quality), was established by Nick Reader and Bob Basham, one of the original founders of Outback Steakhouse. Even during his time at Outback, Basham was convinced that there was room for a restaurant concept that could do for chicken what In-N-Out managed to achieve with the burgers. Even so, Basham was also under no illusion that the concept wouldn't come up against stiff competition. "Obviously Chick-fil-A owned the chicken market, but we believed it could be done at a better level of quality and service," Basham tells Restaurant Business

So, Basham and Reader, who was then CEO of a private equity firm, built PDQ on the back of a small North Carolina restaurant chain called Tenders, which they purchased in 2009. Both men then spent two years and millions of dollars fixing the menu and service model before they opened the first PDQ in Tampa, Florida in 2011.

PDQ is built on a simple menu and a simple premise

PDQ is built on the belief that food needs to be of good quality, fresh, and affordable. QSR Magazine notes that the restaurant runs on a simple premise — that everything has to be served fresh and served quickly. As such, it keeps the menu simple by offering basic chicken tenders, sandwiches, salads, a number of sides, as well as hand-spun shakes. All the food is prepared in an open kitchen, and there are no preservatives or chemicals used. As an added bonus, the chicken doesn't come frozen, and contains no added steroids or growth hormones. All of this is served in under two minutes, with an average check of $7. 

"When you have a very focused menu like us and you're trying to cook from scratch in two minutes or less, you can't have 10,000 things on your menu," Reader says. "You've got to know who you are."

PDQ has a following

Fans have taken to social media to rave about the chicken tender chain that could. One TripAdvisor member left a comment entitled "Never tasted Chicken Tenders like this!!!" and said: "What can I say about PDQ! It's bright, clean, inviting and most of all the food is GREAT! The chicken tenders are out of this world...  I have been in many fast / casual restaurants in my day and never seen this anywhere. Great idea!!!" Another user, who gave the restaurant four stars, said: "Who would have thought you could run an entire restaurant around serving chicken tenders? PDQ has done it and their food is quite good! I ordered the Tenders' Basket with fries and was quite impressed. I loved their dipping sauces, too."

PDQ has a modest footprint at the moment. The chicken chain has under 100 fast casual restaurants located across five states, including Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina. From where things stand at the moment, it may take a while for PDQ to come to an area near you, but it looks like it will be worth the wait.