Transforming Fast Food One Chicken Sandwich at a Time
Words by Sommer Brugal Photos by Eric Morales
When Kevin Warden founded Flyrite Chicken, he had just one mission in mind: to disrupt the fast food and quick service industry. One year later, Flyrite continues serving real food to its east Austin neighbors.
For ten years, Kevin Warden worked to expand and franchise another fast casual eatery. But towards the end of his tenure, his job had shifted, consisting mainly of scouting different areas for new sites. Warden said the role enabled him to understand what was missing in the fast casual market—and where.
“I was able to see what was working and what wasn’t,” he explained. While exciting things were happening in the fast casual space, he noticed the drive thru industry was remaining stagnant. Warden saw a niche in the market and “set out to disrupt the quick service [industry] with better food and better design.”
Flyrite Chicken is that disruption.
Located on East 7th Street, the fast casual drive thru and sit down eatery offers real food, like all-natural chicken raised without antibiotics. The menu features gluten-free and vegetarian options, along with salads and homemade sauces. It’s food you can feel good about.
According to Warden, opening his fast food concept in east Austin made perfect sense. New brands were emerging, creative ideas were developing, and innovative concepts were popping up on every corner. “Flyrite Chicken,” Warden said, “would cater to the fresh, young minds moving to the area.”
Once they opened their doors, though, Warden said a different scenario presented itself. “We expected our customer base to be primarily the folks who were moving here,” he explained. “But the biggest surprise is that [our main customer base] is actually locals who were already here.” Warden said eastside residents connected with the brand instantly. “They simply got it.”
For Quirino Silva, Flyrite’s Director of Culinary Operations and east Austin native, the connection to the eastside runs deep. He said the brand has worked with Hermanos de East Austin, Chula League, and Austin’s Easter Seals. The brand is also partnering with select area schools in the community to ensure school lunches are healthy and clean.
Silva said community outreach was embedded in the brand’s mission from the start. “There’s always a big pushback [to] new concepts on the eastside,” Silva said. “So we wanted to show [the community] that there was a face to our brand: that we were an Austin brand.”
Flyrite Chicken is connected to the community in different ways, too. Operations Manager Dallas Miller said the company sources from local eastside vendors whenever possible.
Hops & Grain was the first beer Flyrite offered. Today the eatery’s beer selection includes more than five local breweries. And the tortillas, Miller said, are from El Milagro. “Anything we can do to connect to our community, we do in whatever way we can.”
When it comes to the brand’s future, Warden is assured Flyrite will remain on top. Just as long as he and his team stay true to the brand’s purpose of cleaning up the wrongs of the fast food industry and offering real, quality meals.
“[It’s important] to always be aware of what’s happening around you,” Warden adds, “but as long as we stay focused on our purpose, and execute that purpose, I think all the other stuff will take care of itself.”
On The Move
In addition to the East 7th location, Flyrite Chicken has a second location on Burnet Road and another in the works. As one of a few local brands chosen to represent the city, Flyrite’s third expansion will be located in Austin’s new airport renovation, which is expected to open sometime at the end of this year. Warden says the entire team is incredibly excited.
Most members of the Flyrite team eat something off the menu daily, something Warden hoped for when he founded the eatery. For Silva, that means making anything “superfly-style.” He said doing so consists of adding pepper jack cheese, two slices of bacon, kale slaw, fresh jalapeños, and fresh Siracha mayo to the standard fried chicken sandwich. “It goes good on anything, at anytime.”
2129 E 7th Street or
6539 Burnet Road