CT chicken and waffle chain’s rapid expansion to include Southington

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SOUTHINGTON — Founders of a chicken and waffle franchise restaurant are working to open their next location on Queen Street.

Lou and Shateema Sterling started Rooster’s Chicken & Waffles in 2020 on the Silas Deane Highway in Wethersfield. They’ve since expanded to seven locations and are looking to add a Southington one in April at 1217 Queen St.

“It’s a prime location,” Lou Sterling said. “I did my homework on Southington, it’s a very restaurant-friendly town.”

The focused menu consists of chicken tenders and sandwiches along with waffles. Sides include fries, onion rings, macaroni and cheese, corn fritters, biscuits, fried plantains and tater tots.

Once a firm opening date is established, the couple wants to get their liquor permit for the location to serve wine, beer and mixed drinks. That’s a feature of the Middletown location.

Started in the pandemic

Shateema Sterling said she and her husband have had to roll with the punches that inflation, labor shortages, a pandemic and skyrocketing food prices threw their way.

“We opened the first location just when everything was falling apart,” she said. “From there, we’ve seen great success.”

“Like every other restaurant out there, we’ve seen our fair share of problems,” Shateema Sterling said. “We’ve also seen our fair share of employee shortages.”

She credited the company’s employee sharing program with creating loyalty among workers.

“If the restaurant does really well and exceeds numbers, the employees gets a percentage of that,” Shateema Sterling said. “It helps a location stay on top, it helps the employees run it as if they own it because they have a piece of the pie.”

The couple have at times taken shifts themselves to help cover unexpected labor shortages.

“There’s things you can control, other things you can’t,” Shateema Sterling said.

Plans for growth

All the current locations are in Connecticut but the couple is talking to developers in Massachusetts, Texas and South Carolina.

“We’re looking to go national in about the next six months to a year,” Shateema Sterling said.

Connecticut locations include New Britain, Middletown, the Meriden Mall and the original Wethersfield location.

Jonel Joseph, a Hartford resident, will be manager for the Southington location. He’s done everything with Rooster’s from graphic design to cooking and cleaning. Joseph said Monday that he’s ready to get started with good food and good service in Southington. Other than the Sterlings, Joseph said no one knows Rooster’s better than him.

“Rooster’s is like my own business. I consider Rooster’s like my own business,” he said. “Lou is like family for me.”

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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