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Slim Chickens chain set to open first New Mexico location in Farmington on Jan. 10

Franchisee Dennis Eckstrom also owns several Del Taco, Denny's locations

FARMINGTON — The newest addition to San Juan County's lineup of restaurants comes early this week when Slim Chickens opens its doors on Monday, Jan. 10.

The chain, which originated in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2003, operates more than 130 locations worldwide. But the Farmington location at 3475 E. Main St. will be its first venture in New Mexico.

Franchisee Dennis Eckstrom — who also owns all the Del Taco locations in New Mexico, as well as several Denny's diners — plans to open four more Slim Chickens locations in the Albuquerque area later this year and another one in the El Paso area in 2023.

Eventually, plans call for Slim Chickens to have 10 to 15 franchises in New Mexico, according to Tom Parker, vice president of operations.

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Slim Chickens specializes in chicken tenders and southern-inspired side dishes. The chain describes itself as being part of the "fast-casual" market, and its menu features tenders, both grilled and fried, along with wings, sandwiches, wraps, salads, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, fries, chips, and fried mushrooms, pickles and okra.

Parker said 100 employees have been hired to staff the Farmington location, which is 2,600 square feet and includes indoor and outdoor dining. He was putting his new workers through their final days of training on Jan. 6 as they prepared for the Jan. 10 public opening.

Renovation of the building — which formerly housed a Serious Texas Bar-B-Q location — began during the summer. Eckstrom originally hoped to open the business in September, but that was pushed back to December and then January because of supply-chain issues with some of the restaurant's equipment.

Parker said he has been onsite at the new location since July and has been assembling the crew for the past few months.

"Our goal was (to hire) 80 people, and we felt like if we could get 70, we'd be in great shape," he said, explaining how the number of applicants has far exceeded his expectations. "We're still getting 10 applications a day, and we'll follow up on those, because you invariably lose some people after you open."

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Parker said he believes Slim Chickens has been successful in hiring so many new workers in a market where many restaurants have struggled to fill positions for a couple of reasons.

"I think it's being new," he said of the chain's presence in Farmington. "And we're (paying) above minimum wage. But mostly it's the newness and excitement of a new place in town."

Slim Chickens will open at 10:30 a.m. daily. The dining room will close at 10 p.m. each day, but the drive-thru lane will remain open until midnight.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.