Asian chicken chain spreading its wings

A new Bonchon restaurant is planned for Midlothian Turnpike. Rendering courtesy of THS Construction.

A new Bonchon restaurant is planned for Midlothian Turnpike. Rendering courtesy of THS Construction.

A Korean-style fried chicken joint is branching out around Richmond.

Two new Bonchon franchises are in the works in Midlothian and Mechanicsville.

Bill French, along with two silent partners, is behind the Midlothian location, which they plan to open in May at 11607 Midlothian Turnpike in Towne Crossings Shopping Center. They’ve leased the 2,500-square foot space that was previously occupied by a Schlotzsky’s.

French’s restaurant will add to the brand’s one existing location at 8026 W. Broad St. That store is owned by another franchisee, French said.

Bonchon sells Korean-style fried chicken and other Korean dishes like bulgogi and bibimbap. The company started in 2002 in South Korea and opened its first U.S. store in 2006 with a location in New Jersey. It currently has 188 locations, with 16 either open or coming soon to Virginia, according to the company’s website.

“Virginia is Bonchon’s best market,” French said. “They are opening franchises in Virginia at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world.”

Bonchon corporate said the Mechanicsville location is in the works for the Hanover Square shopping center off Bell Creek Road. French said he is not involved with that location.

French said he has the franchise rights for Bonchon in Chesterfield County. He currently lives in Pennsylvania where he has been in retirement but is moving to Richmond to run Bonchon full-time.

“I have been in the restaurant business all my life,” he said.

He was a general manager at McCormick & Schmick’s in Philadelphia for five years. He was at Copeland’s of New Orleans for 14 years, the last four of which he was a vice president of operations and chief operating officer.

French cited Midlothian’s high volume of traffic, retail density and accessible roads as reasons why it was an attractive place to do business.

“We wanted an area that had good demographics, not just for the present but looking forward,” French said. “This area seemed to fit that target.”

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