In the wake of successfully shoring up its workforce with a new approach to employee schedules, a local chicken-focused restaurant chain is in expansion mode – and its next stop is a Midlothian golf course.
The Cocky Rooster will soon open a to-go outpost at Independence Golf Club at 600 Founders Bridge Blvd.
Owned by Brett Diehl and Luke Phillips, Cocky Rooster is taking over Independence’s turn-house, a sort-of snack shack between the course’s 9th and 10th holes.
The hut had most recently been occupied by Monster Taco, which moved out after going mobile with a new food truck.
Monster Taco’s departure led Independence owner Giff Breed to seek out a new concept at the turn. Cocky Rooster was interested but the hut needed retrofitting.
“The biggest obstacle was to figure out how to get fryers in there,” Diehl said, adding that running gas lines to the small structure was also tricky.
Working with Breed, the small shack has been expanded to accommodate more equipment and the installation of a hood for the fryers. Next up is a paint job.
“We’re muraling the whole building, which will represent our brand in a way that will signify that it’s new – new food and new concept,” Diehl said.
The Independence location will join Cocky Rooster’s original spot at 2523 W. Main St. in the Fan, which opened in 2020, and its Short Pump restaurant at 12121 W. Broad St. in GreenGate, which opened in 2021. They also have a food truck.
Diehl said the Independence spot will offer food to go and via delivery. The small space of the turn-house won’t allow for the full Cocky Rooster menu, but Diehl and Phillips have some menu items in mind that will be unique to this location, especially keeping golfers in mind.
“Maybe not everyone is wanting to eat chicken wings on the 9th hole,” Phillips said.
As of last week Diehl said they’re still weighing an opening date, but it’s expected soon.
The expansion to Independence comes a few months after Phillips and Diehl set out on an experiment to try to fix the restaurant staffing and retention problem that has plagued much of the industry since the pandemic began.
Since rolling out a 3.5-day work week for its full-time employee – in which the workers still get in 40 hours, just in fewer days – Phillips said the new setup has exceeded their expectations.
“It’s been pretty great. We’ve added quality of life back to the employees and managers,” Phillips said. “Finding and retaining staff as of late has been a lot better. Before that it was atrocious and the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with.”
With that problem solved for now, they have their eyes on continued expansion.
“We’re looking to grow, we’re looking around other markets and other neighborhoods around Richmond,” Diehl said.
Breed, Independence’s owner since 2013, also is keeping his club in a continuous evolution.
In addition to adding Cocky Rooster, Breed said a new independently run coffee shop is in the works within the clubhouse. The club also recently added an equipment trailer at its driving range where golfers can get equipment fitting.
Such additions are par for the course since Breed took over with a philosophy of bringing a country club feel to a public golf course, while mixing in all sorts of unorthodox non-golf offerings.
“It’s just sort of Augusta National 101 – you’re just trying to get better every year,” he said, referring to the famed course in Georgia where the Master’s is held. “If you’re not changing, you’re backing up.”