By Carolyn Bahm
The big rooster sign, a revamped exterior and the tempting smell of chicken, steak and fries clued in Bartlett residents when Rooster’s Chicken Shack launched a quiet opening Nov. 18. With a fresh exterior look and retro music playing from the 1950s and ’60s, they are gaining attention as a local restaurant with a soda shop vibe.
“We very quickly gained a small core loyal following, and it’s growing and growing every week,” said co-owner Amy Arrington.
She and business partner Allen Blaylock are currently planning a grand opening and ribbon cutting soon.
The tiny restaurant at 5980 Bartlett Center Drive has housed Tinkerbell’s, Quintessential Sweets and other walk-up summer eateries over the years.
These days, it offers chicken and waffles, chicken strips and nuggets, mini chicken tacos, steak fingers with Pancho’s cheese dip, sliders, cheddar balls, fried pearl onions, fried pickles, sweet potato tots, kids’ menu selections, desserts of brownies and ice cream, milkshakes and Coke soft drinks, to name just a few items. The chili-infused honey is a fresh take as a dip for the main dishes.
“We wanted to serve something different,” Blaylock said. “We wanted to serve something different than other fast-food restaurants. There are items on our menu you won’t find at other places.”
Arrington and Blaylock have a fun atmosphere inside with chicken hats, a rubber chicken and the rooster stickers they hand out to children, but they’re all business where it counts. Arrington formerly owned a family restaurant in Starkville, Miss., and Blaylock has 20 years of experience at all operational levels of full-service restaurants in the Memphis area. He has also sold point-of-sale systems for the past 12 years.
Blaylock has a special fondness for this city: His parents owned The Learning House in Bartlett, along with three Memphis locations, for 25 years. He worked at the Bartlett location for years, starting at age 14. After his father’s death, his mother sold the business a few years ago, he said. He’s also been a Bartlett resident for the past 20 years.
The two are social media marketers for other businesses, so they are savvy about keeping their own restaurant on their customers’ radar. See them on Google, their frequently updated Facebook page (search for roosterschickenshack) and Instagram as roosterschickenshack. The menu is online via their Facebook page (select “About” and then scroll down to the “See menu” link).
“We spend a lot of time engaging with our customers online,” Blaylock said. “Our goal is to be 100 percent involved with our customers. That’s from our experience. Not everybody’s like that.”
The original building just had a walk-up front window, and the new owners have added a side drive-thru window and digital menus for guests’ convenience. Blaylock and Arrington decided to make a big splash with these and other improvements.
“The first thing I said was, ‘This business is invisible, and we’re going to make it stand out,’” Blaylock explained.
Starting in May 2018, he and Arrington did most of the work themselves. They erected a fence, updated their lighting, installed an awning, repainted the building, invested in new cooking equipment, added tables with big red umbrellas for outdoor seating when the weather warms up, adopted a logo and improved their signage.
He’s involved in several car clubs and shows, and plans to work that into his restaurant’s marketing efforts. In the spring, they will offer lawn games on the grassy lot outside.
Through a new partnership with BiteSquad.com, they have begun offering deliveries, and they are finalizing their catering menu. The two expect their business venture to continue growing, and they find the work rewarding.
“For me personally, I get joy out of providing someone their meal,” Arrington said. “It’s nourishment for their body, it’s their fuel and their energy to go on and conquer the rest of their day. And it’s kind of the only time that people slow down and focus their attention on themselves and what they want and they need. And I like to be able to offer that to them and give it to them with a smile, friendly conversation, and if they’re having a bad day maybe that one little extra smile kind of turns their day around and makes it better for them.”
She continued, “At the core of it, that’s what I’m passionate about — being able to provide good food, with really great service that people don’t get in a fast-food setting.”
For more information, call the restaurant at (901) 877-5555. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday and closed on Monday.