Born & Breaded in Texas: The Founding of Layne's Chicken Fingers

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How one man took Layne’s Chicken Fingers from his favorite lunch spot to a community staple that’s Soon to be Famous™ nationwide.

Long before Layne’s Chicken Fingers began expanding within Texas and beyond, now-owner Mike Garratt said he would visit the restaurant in College Station two or three times a week for lunch. His father owned a landscaping business, he owned a lawn mowing business, and the duo just happened to be remodeling a school directly behind Layne’s.

“Never in a hundred years did I ever think I was going to be in the restaurant business!” said Garratt. “It all just kind of fell into place.”

One day at lunch, Garratt noticed the overgrown flower beds out front. “I looked out front, and there was grass almost two feet tall taking over the flower beds, so I asked Layne if he wanted me to weed it for him,” Garratt explained. After seeing the satisfactory work, Layne offered Garratt a job.

Once Garratt entered college, he took Layne up on that offer. Garratt was pursuing a degree in agriculture systems management, a blend of business and agricultural engineering, and ended up selling his mowing business to someone who had enough time to maintain the customer base. So, in 1995, Garratt began working part-time at Layne’s.

“I don’t even know if we had official titles back then. We were a very small company, so I was just a cook,” Garratt explained. “Things weren’t super organized. I always believed in working hard, though, so I just worked really hard and did what I thought the store needed. I kind of worked my way up to manager over the next couple of years.”

Garratt had gained a stake in the company in 1997, but when he graduated in 1999, he bought the remainder of the business.

“I like that I can be a part of something that people really enjoy,” Garratt said. “You think, ‘we’re just a restaurant,’ but some people really really love Layne’s. We’ve even seen people get married wearing Layne’s shirts.”

Layne’s has been a Texas favorite ever since its first shop opened on the Texas A&M campus more than 30 years ago.

"We were founded in College Station and still have that rich hometown culture in all of our locations,” said Garrett Reed, Layne’s CEO. “We know we have a special brand here, with serious fans across Texas, and we see a bright future for franchisees who want to bring smiles to families in their communities."

The success of the brand is often attributed to Garratt’s commitment to fostering and protecting the unique culture within the original Layne’s locations.

A community has risen up around the restaurant as past graduates return to eat, and Layne’s continues to be involved in student groups and the college experience of Texas A&M students. As Layne’s has expanded throughout Texas and is now working to establish locations across the nation, Garratt explained that it’s his goal to maintain the casual, family feel.

“Layne’s is a part of the community, and it’s a part that people love and enjoy. I think it’s neat that we’re expanding to other parts of the country, and I think it would be neat if we could spread that feeling to other communities,” he said. “We can be that place in a community where people go to get their food. Somewhere that feels like home and is a place to let their stress out and get something good to eat.”

While the brand has had to embrace some modernizations with expansion, Garratt said he wants Layne’s to have a mom-and-pop feel.

“Like I said, I don’t like to be too stuffy. A lot of our employees are college kids, so our culture has been built from the laid-back, not-so-serious attitude of our employees. A lot of the jokes and lighthearted moments are produced by the staff and customers that come in. We’ve built up this culture together.”

Franchise opportunities range from $737,000 to $1,217,500 with different buildout options available. Learn more about franchising here.

Founded in 1994 in College Station, the original location became a Texas A&M legend known for its small-town charm, friendly service, iconic chicken fingers, and secret sauce. While opening corporate locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the leadership team focused on fine-tuning its operations and starting to franchise. Now, the company is planning to bring Layne’s Soon to be Famous™ Chicken Fingers to the rest of the world with plans to open 100 locations by the next four years.

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Sheri Hill
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