PDQ: The Evolution of the Next Emerging Chicken Chain


PDQ's customer service made it one of the standout brands in this year's QSR Drive-Thru Study.

Its not often in the foodservice industry that you will hear a restaurant concept described in this manner (and by its owner, no less):. "'We like to affectionately refer to ourselves as that kid in high school who maybe wasn't the coolest kid, but everybody liked. We can get along with anybody."

Yet those are the words of Nick Reader, CEO and cofounder of PDQ, the fast-casual chicken chain that's on the heels of its fifth 'birthday. It's this inclusivity and universality that Reader believes is propelling the concept to new markets across the country. Started on October 30, 2011 r in Tampa, Florida, PDQ (People Dedicated to Quality) has grown to 55 units in eight states (Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas). Reader says 2017 will see PDQ enter four new ones—Illinois, Oklahoma, Utah, and Arizona—for certain. A fifth market, in Long island, New York, could also happen, but isn't finalized. By the end of the following year, PDQ project there will be 100 total locations throughout the U.S.

"Our customers tend to be grancikicls to grandparents.... We don't necessarily have a set parameter of what a new site needs to look like, and that helps us. We have sites in small towns. We have sites in bigger cities. But predominantly, we're in a lot of what I call 'Anytime USA' locations. The brand works everywhere."

Reader and Bob Basharn, the cofounder of Outback Steakhouse, cultivated PDIQ's relatable vibe during two years of research prior to the first store opening. Reader was the chief financial officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—the NFL's youngest at the time—before becoming CEO of MVP Holdings, a private investment firm. As he puts it, he had the financial side down pat while Basharn thrived in operations. They didn't spend much time developing the brand's personality, electing instead to let it mature over time.

That evolution is just now starting to materialize. And the ordinary high school student as Reader describes PDQ, is now showing up to his reunion in a Rolls-Royce.

In September, PDQ launched a new website and unveiled its rebranded image: A Fresh Take on Fast Food.

'We always say you have to be great at what you can be and apologetically bad or average at the other things until you can focus on them," Reader says. "'We didn't want to be too focused on branding until the personality really came out of the brand.'

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