The Untold Truth Of Bb.q Chicken

When Americans think of Korean cuisine, the first foods that come to mind may be kimchi, a fermented specialty, marinated beef bulgogi, or the ever popular Korean barbecue. But in recent years, Korean fried chicken has garnered increased attention in the United States. According to the Korean Herald, the dish made its mark on the South Korean culinary scene in the '80s, when the practice of double-frying chicken and drenching the crispy pieces in sauce rose in popularity. The following decade, as a result of the 1997 Asian financial crisis which caused many people to lose their regular jobs, unemployed workers found success opening fried chicken restaurants across the country and the industry boomed (via Smithsonian Magazine). Among the multiple chains to emerge during that time was bb.q Chicken which continues to expand across South Korea and around the globe, including across the United States.  

While American fried chicken, which is traditionally drenched in thick buttermilk and coated with flour, remains embedded in our fast food culture, bb.q Chicken excels in showing how Korea does it differently. They are a company dedicated to providing premium quality fried chicken through healthy cooking practices, savory flavors, and a competitive edge by offering various services in their restaurants to suit their customer's changing needs (via bb.q Chicken). They've pledged to become "the best chicken franchise restaurant business in the USA" and with more and more Americans become familiar with the brand, the door is open. This is the untold truth of bb.q Chicken.  

The chain was an instant sensation in South Korea

The capital city of Seoul, South Korea is where bb.q Chicken calls home. Owned by Korean company Genesis BBQ, this fried chicken franchise was established in 1995 with the primary goal of creating "the most delicious and healthiest premium chicken in the world" (via bb.q Chicken). Chairman Yoon Hong-geun evolved his company to franchise status just three years later. Yoon claims that since childhood, he yearned to be in the business of making people happy. According to Genesis BBQ, his philosophy for bb.q Chicken has always been to "take customer's life and happiness as a top priority."  

It only took one year after the company's launch to expand to 100 stores in the country, and by the year 2000, they were operating 1000 stores nationwide. That same year, bb.q Chicken first received the Korean Distribution Industry Prize of the Prime Minister and continued earning various awards and accolades over the years for industry and consumer success (via BBQ Global). With plenty of momentum at home the brand entered the U.S. market in 2008, and continues to expand Stateside despite competition from some of the largest and top-grossing fast food chicken companies in the world such as KFC (owned by Yum! Brands Inc.), Restaurant Brands International (owners of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen), and Chick-fil-A (via MarketWatch). Although they operate primarily as franchises, the stores in the U.S. are run as chains (via Pulse). 

Bb.q doesn't mean what you think it does

At first glance, you might assume that "bb.q" stands for barbecue, which is commonly abbreviated as "BBQ," but that is not the case. It turns out that it is actually an acronym for "best of the best quality," according to the Daily Hive.

Why do they refer to themselves as the best quality? Well, bb.q is unique in that they fry their chicken in olive oil, which is considered a better, healthier option as opposed to vegetable oil. It also creates a thinner, more delicate coating. For this reason, you will sometimes see their product labeled as "bb.q Olive Chicken" (via bb.q Chicken). According to Block Club Chicago, the chicken is marinated in an array of secret spices before it's fried-to-order, which can take about 20 minutes. If you opt for sauce-coated fried chicken, the pieces are tossed in a hot wok with your sauce of choice. The result is a sticky, glazed exterior that maintains a high level of premium, crispy perfection.

They have unique flavors for all tastes

At most American fast food fried chicken chains, you may be given a choice of whether you want your batter to be spicy or mild, but those tend to be your only options. However, at bb.q Chicken they are proud to offer a large variety of globally-inspired flavors that will appeal to any palate.

At the Los Angeles Chicken location in Koreatown, you'll find some familiar sauces for their fried chicken (available in a half bird portion over exclusively such as honey garlic, sweet chili, buffalo, and a regular barbecue. If you enjoy heat, there are several spicy sauces including the intense Wings of Fire. For fried chicken with real Korean flair, choose among multiple mouthwatering options including galbi (sweet and salty), gang-jeong (soy-based), and a "Gangnam Style" sauce that has a kick of black pepper (via bb.q Chicken). And if you just want to stick with plain fried chicken, you can opt for their Original Crispy which has no sauce. Keep in mind that flavor availability will depend on the location.

They are growing in popularity all over the world

In July 2021, bb.q Chicken was ranked fifth on the National Restaurant News list of "the 25 fastest-growing restaurant chains in America by unit count." According to the publication, by the end of 2020, the chain grew to 51 units in the U.S., a 45.7% from the previous year. They now have nearly 100 outlets that stretch from New York to Hawaii (via KED Global) with their sights set on expanding to 150 locations in the U.S market by the end of 2022. According to their corporate site, bb.q Chicken first went international in 2003 when they opened locations in China, and the chain can now be found in 57 countries, per KED Global. By 2025, their ambitious goal is to have 50,000 total stores open across the world.

The phenomena referred to as the K-wave, or "hallyu," could be a major factor for this brand's rise in the U.S. K-wave is a trend in which Korean entertainment, fashion, and food are popularized globally. When the K-pop group BTS reigned on the Billboard charts in 2019 and the film "Parasite" won top Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director in 2020 (via, the U.S. dove headfirst into the K-wave and blissfully lost sight of the shoreline. K-dramas have also begun to rise in popularity thanks to streaming and are notable for their heavy-use of product placement, and that includes bb.q Chicken  — more on that later.

They strategically develop and locate their stores

Unlike other fried chicken franchises, bb.q Chicken offers different variations of their restaurant format in order to accommodate their customer's needs and appeal to ever-changing consumer trends. According to their corporate website, the multiple versions of bb.q Chicken include Premium, Café, Fast-Casual Dining, Chicken & Beer (Pub), and Express. Each one is strategically placed in its location based on the services and menu it offers, and the physical size. For example, the Café type is considered their "normal" model because it includes sit-down service as well as a delivery option, and they claim it is a "suitable type to any location." Whereas the Fast-Casual Dining type is a self-service store that would often be found in food courts of malls and airports.

In New York, bb.q Chicken operates a grab and go café due to the high foot traffic of office workers and anyone else in need of a quick bite. But further north in Boston, Massachusetts, you'll find a pub-style outlet. This is a sit down store that features a menu tailored to pairing chicken and beer that appeals to the local college students (via Maekyung). In April 2020, the company launched a new style of store, BBQ Smart Kitchen (BSK), as an exclusive, contact-free way of offering their premium chicken via delivery. According to corporate owners Genesis BBQ, by July 2021 there were 300 BSK locations.

They advertise with Korea's biggest celebrities

Marketing with celebrities has long been an effective tool to gain attention and increase consumer desire for a product or service. It's all thanks to a tactic called "classical conditioning" which uses the positive association of a celebrity to create a positive image for the brand (via Marketing Schools). The marketing team at bb.q Chicken is clearly well aware of this, as the company's products and restaurants have been featured in numerous hit K-dramas such as "Crash Landing On You" and "Guardian: The Lonely and Great God," aka "Goblin," in which a premium store was the location of multiple scenes and included heavy product placement throughout (via bb.q Chicken).

According to Nikkei Asia, the company noticed the rising popularity of K-dramas across the globe due to the easy accessibility of streaming services, and decided to jump in on the trend. A spokesperson for the company claimed that their restaurants notice when customers order a specific dish that was featured in an episode. Just this simple placement of their stores and products in streamed shows has allowed for bb.q Chicken to gain international attention.

Their menu offers much more than just fried chicken

Beyond fried chicken, the menu at bb.q Chicken features several different types of foods to satisfy your hunger. Items, which vary by location, include traditional Korean dishes such as kimchi fried rice and ddeok bokki (aka tteokbokki), the popular South Korean street food which combines rice cakes and fish cakes in a  sweet and spicy sauce (via Eater San Diego). Some bb.q chicken locations (including the store in New York's) serve Korean Army Stew (aka Budae Jjampong Tang), which consists of kimchi, rice cake, ramen, sausage, and ham. You can wash it all down with Korea's most popular liquor, Soju, which is made from fermented rice.

But if Korean food isn't your thing, there's no need to worry. There are also Western food options on the menu, albeit in the form of side dishes. For example, if you visit this bb.q Chicken location in Houston, Texas, you'll find familiar American fast food favorites such as cheese sticks, coleslaw, onion rings, and waffle fries. 

They have a one-of-a-kind Chicken University

Not many people can say that they've graduated from Chicken University, but the employees and franchise owners of bb.q Chicken can make that boast (via bb.q Chicken). However, this university is unlike a traditional school where students pay to attend classes and then (hopefully) graduate with a degree. Established in 2000, the unique educational facility in South Korea features a two-week course designed for training bb.q Chicken employees and owners alike on restaurant skills such as marketing, management and operations, and, of course, how to make all of that delicious fried chicken. 

While American hamburger chain In-N-Out offers a similar university program, it is intended for entry-level managers. What makes bb.q Chicken's facility even more dynamic is that it also serves as their hub for research and development, per the company. This is where their team of researchers studies and develops current and potential menu offerings, as well as ways to continue excelling in customer experience.

In a 2019 interview with Korea JoongAng Daily, the university's President, Kim Boo-kyung, claimed that there are plans to convert the 19.7 acre campus into a "chicken theme park" by 2025, offering family-focused entertainment such as a museum and a zoo which will house 132 different chicken species.