The Untold Truth Of Bojangles'

It may not have the widespread notoriety of Chick-Fil-A or KFC, but Bojangles' is still one of the stars of the fast food chicken world, and for good reason. It's got its roots in the South, and there's a good chance you've never even heard of it if you're on the West Coast. While Bojangles' locations reach as far north as Pennsylvania, the majority of the stores are found below the Mason-Dixon line — which is clearly where it belongs with its Southern charm and classic Southern recipes. Yes, the chain restaurant is known for its mouthwatering fried chicken, but its real claim to fame is the biscuits, which you'll find incorporated into a wide variety of the meals on the Bojangles' menu.

The chain prides itself on its high-quality ingredients and subsequent product, which isn't always common when it comes to fast food joints. Whether you're a loyal Bojangles' fan or you've never been to one in your life, there's probably a lot you don't know about this Southern fast food staple. Here's what you should learn about the untold truth of Bojangles' before your next visit.

Bojangles' biscuits are made from scratch every 20 minutes

First off, let us just say that we love fast food. Salt, fat, MSG? Bring it on. But one thing you generally don't expect from a fast food restaurant is a high-quality, from-scratch product. The whole ethos of the fast-food industry is to save as much time as possible, so it just doesn't make sense to make food from scratch when it would be so much easier to just throw a frozen product in the oven.

Bojangles' is setting a different precedent, though. No, the stores aren't getting frozen biscuit disks to simply warm up before serving. They actually make their biscuits fresh, in-house, and crew members put a fresh tray of biscuits in the oven every 20 minutes. In 2011, then-Executive Vice President Eric Newman of Bojangles' told the Nashville Post, "Biscuits are an art form. It's a highly honored position in our restaurants. It's an intricate, delicate process to manage." The 48-step process surely takes a lot more time and effort than using pre-made biscuits, but it's a significant part of why the chain has been so successful.

Bojangles' chicken is never frozen

It's not just the biscuits, either. The company knows it needs to use other fresh, delicious ingredients to make all that hard work making biscuits worth it. Why put a dry piece of frozen chicken on a biscuit made from scratch? That's why the chicken at Bojangles' is never frozen. It arrives at the store still completely fresh. Then, all the cooking happens on-site as well.

First, staff members marinate the chicken for a full 12 hours, which is probably why the chicken at Bojangles' is always so flavorful. That's not where the hard work ends, though. The marination is followed by an eight-hour breading process that's done by hand. They then cook the chicken right there in the kitchen — you won't see anyone reheating a dry chicken patty at this joint. It's also known for its distinctive flavor, which comes from a bit of cayenne in the breading. But even if you don't like your chicken too spicy, there are numerous menu options that are sure to suit your taste.

Bojangles' once had a location in New York City

Oftentimes, Southern restaurants creeping into Yankee territory aren't well-received, especially by those who reside in NYC. They don't necessarily want new fast food restaurants taking over their neighborhoods. Chick-Fil-A's arrival to NYC in 2018 was greeted with a scathing New Yorker article which claimed that "the brand's arrival here feels like an infiltration" and "the air smelled fried." But when, in 1982, Bojangles' took the leap and entered the New York market, the tone from the same outlet wasn't nearly as hostile and seemed to celebrate the opening of the restaurant, even if it wasn't reflective of New Yorker fare.

But, alas, perhaps a fried chicken and biscuit fast food restaurant just wasn't what New Yorkers wanted at the time. The Manhattan location closed its doors in 2007, which means New Yorkers now have to take a road trip if they want to get their hands on some Bojangles' fried chicken and biscuits. The northernmost location of the store is now in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Bojangles' was born and raised in the Carolinas

As you would expect, Bojangles' calls the South its home. Not only are the majority of its restaurants in this region of the country, but it's also where the chain got its start. Jack Fulk and Richard Thomas were the co-founders, and they weren't exactly new to the fast food business. They knew what they wanted their brand to look like, and they set out to make it a reality. The very first Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n' Biscuits came to existence in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1977.

It didn't take long for these two business partners to expand their business. Just one year after opening their first store, Fulk and Thomas opened their first franchise. Then, three years later, Bojangles' hit a huge milestone: In 1981, it achieved the highest restaurant sales average in the country. Throughout these successes, Bojangles' has continued to grow. While its locations are spread all over the South, and the largest portion of those (a whopping 318 stores) is in North Carolina.

80% of its revenue is from take-out and drive-thru customers

These days, it's getting rarer and rarer to eat inside a fast food restaurant. The atmosphere of your typical fast food joint usually isn't what people would consider inviting, especially with changing ideas about fast food, its health consequences, and its overall desirability. Just think about the disappearance of McDonald's PlayPlaces over the years... what incentive is there to go inside the restaurant now?

Still, drive-thrus have a sort of appeal that's probably not going anywhere anytime soon, especially considering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. After all, drive-thrus were what allowed fast food chains to make a comeback in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Bojangles' may have been ahead of the curve, though. All the way back in 2017, the company claimed that 80% of its revenue came from drive-thru and take-out orders. In a changing world where customers want to reduce physical contact at restaurants but still want freshly-made, convenient meals, Bojangles' might be especially well-positioned to fill that niche.

Bojangles' has its own emoji app

One of Bojangles' more questionable promotional efforts involved the creation of its very own emoji app. If you've ever felt a pull to express your love of Bojangles' with an emoji and found the standard iOS offerings woefully limited, then Bomoji is the app for you. For the rest of us, though, it looks more like a misguided attempt to appeal to younger consumers. CNBC reported that in 2015, Doug Poppen, Bojangles' senior director of marketing at the time, said the company had noticed that "a large percentage of (its) most loyal fans use emojis as a primary dialect when communicating" and that Millennials and Gen Z were leading this trend.

Not exactly a groundbreaking observation, even in 2015. It seems like the app hasn't gone over too well with users, either. Several reviews have titles like "Useless," "Why?," and "Waste of time." Silly marketing move? Maybe. But as long as Bojangles' is still serving up its delicious chicken biscuits, we're okay with it coming out with as many pointless apps as it wants.

The co-founder started out as a Hardee's franchise owner

The co-founder of Bojangles' didn't start off as a complete newbie when he and Richard Thomas opened their first Bojangles' restaurant in the late 70s. Jack Fulk received several college scholarships during high school thanks to his talent on the football field, but he turned them down so he could work and make money for his family instead. So, in 1971, Fulk became a Hardee's franchisee. This was his introduction into the fast-food business, and rumors are that he was always in trouble with corporate for tweaking recipes and trying to come up with his own formulas. Hardee's was annoyed, and Fulk used the fast food chain as a testing ground for his biscuits. 

This was an early sign that Fulk would go on to do bigger and better things. It was only six years after his fast-food debut that Fulk would go on to partner with Thomas to create what we now know as the Bojangles' empire. Even though the first Bojangles' restaurant was in a rougher part of Charlotte and they were pretty much starting from scratch, the partners' commitment to quality helped propel them to success in a relatively short amount of time.

Bojangles' has a location in Honduras

Considering that you can only find Bojangles' restaurants in 12 states throughout the US (plus D.C.), you probably wouldn't assume that the Southern chicken chain had any locations overseas. Don't make assumptions so fast, though. The Central American country must love its chicken and biscuits because you can find a Bojangles' in Coxen Hole on Roatán Island in Honduras. Unlike KFC, which now has restaurants in 145 countries and territories around the world, an international Bojangles' is certainly a rarer find: It's the chain's only international restaurant.

You might think that Coxen Hole is one of the top tourist destinations in the country, but that's actually not the case. It's an up-and-coming tourist destination, with some cruises docking there, but it's still off the more well-worn traveler path. Does that mean that the locals are actually going there too? It's not possible to tell from the reviews, but if there's one food that is universally beloved no matter where you are on the globe, it's fried chicken.

One of its most popular items wasn't always available

Bojangles' might specialize in chicken biscuits, but there's one super-popular item on the menu that's conspicuously chicken-free: the Cheddar Bo. At first, this item wasn't widely available. It could only be found at a few stores for a limited time. But, as is to be expected in the age of the internet, there was an uproar online. Customers wanted their Cheddar Bo back. And when you consider the simple masterpiece that is this cheesy biscuit, it's easy to understand why there was even a petition to get it back on the menu.

Luckily, Bojangles' listened to its outspoken Cheddar Bo fans and brought the sandwich back for a limited time — at first. That wasn't enough, though, so finally, all participating restaurants started selling Cheddar Bos permanently. A few years ago, news outlets reported that Cheddar Bos would be leaving some Bojangles' locations across several states, but that appeared to be a false alarm. One thing is for sure: The people have spoken, and they don't want Bojangles' to drop this popular cheese-smothered creation any time soon.

You can do Thanksgiving there

Even if you love to cook, there's one part of Thanksgiving dinner that's always a pain to make — and it's also the most important dish. Thawing it, preparing it, waking up at dawn to cook it hours before the guests arrive... It's no wonder that so many chain restaurants are now offering Thanksgiving meal options, including turkeys. Is it sad to get your Thanksgiving dinner from a restaurant with a drive-thru? Maybe. But it is a lot easier than cooking your own turkey, and if you buy it and take it out of its packaging ahead of time, nobody has to know.

This won't be your standard roast turkey, either. A fried turkey can be dangerous and it's not uncommon for turkey fryers to catch on fire. So, if you want to avoid a call to the fire department, a Bojangles' Seasoned Fried Turkey might be a smarter option. In 2019, though, the company decided not to offer the celebrated Thanksgiving favorite. It also didn't specify why, which has many Bojangles' fans wondering whether they can look forward to a fried turkey in 2020.

One man found a surprise in his box of chicken

A few years ago, something unexpected happened to a man who'd visited a Bojangles' location in the Richmond, Virginia, area. In 2016, James Minor ordered a meal at the drive-thru. When he got his chicken, though, he noticed it was cold, so he sent it back while he waited for a fresh order. But when he checked the box, he didn't find his meal — he found $4,500.

WTVR CBS 6 reported that Minor went back to the restaurant to tell the manager what happened. He said, "I'm honest. I know what integrity is. I have integrity." He wondered if he was being set up or if someone inside the store was attempting to steal money. Instead of receiving gratitude for returning the money, though, Minor was met with disrespect from the manager about how the store would have called the authorities on him. Minor said, "Here I am doing a good thing, bringing the money back. Most folks probably would've kept on going and wouldn't have recognized it until they got home."

Minor complained, and the company offered him a free meal and a tailgate party, then offered him a $100 gift certificate when he called Bojangles' corporate headquarters. Understandably, Minor wasn't pleased. "I deserve respect, an apologetic letter from the Bojangles' company, and probably a cash reward," Minor said. "What is a $100 gift certificate when you're bringing in $4,500?"

Not everyone's a fan of the spice at Bojangles'

Some folks can eat spicy food every day, and Bojangles' restaurant prides itself on its Cajun-seasoned recipe, but not everyone can get past the heat. In 2013, the restaurant looked for a way to appeal to a wider audience by offering a new, milder Southern-style chicken tender recipe. It offered a viable menu item for those who love the chain's chicken tenders but find themselves eating the original recipe in between giant gulps of milk to soothe their burning mouths.

And it looks like this isn't the first time the chain has had to offer milder chicken options because some couldn't stand the heat. An old Bojangles' commercial advertised the "flavor without the fire." While the restaurant may have made a decision to add milder options to the menu, that doesn't mean the spicy-style chicken went out of style. USA Today celebrated the Bojangles' chicken recipe back in 2014, claiming it had "just enough spicy punch to make it interesting."

There are plenty of Bojangles' copycat recipes available online

Since Bojangles' does have a limited number of locations, you may not be able to find it wherever you live. But before you make the drive from L.A. to Charlotte, you should know that you can at least attempt to make some of your favorite Bojangles' recipes at home. Bojangles' fans from across the country have come up with their own copycat recipes, and they're worth a try if you like spending time in the kitchen. The biscuits, fried chicken, and even sweet tea are a must. And if you're looking for a way to bring some Southern inspiration to your table on Thanksgiving, you can try a Bojangles'-inspired turkey.

Be warned that these recipes may not taste exactly like your Bojangles' favorites, but just look at it as an opportunity to put your own spin on things. At the very least, maybe it can hold you over until you can get your hands on a Bojangles' chicken biscuit of your own.