By Jason Phox
Pittsburgh has seen an influx of food franchises from the simple to the fancy so it’s not a surprise that a Texan-style fried chicken restaurant is trying its luck in the ‘Burgh.
What is different is that Layne’s Chicken Fingers’ expansion into Pittsburgh is spearheaded by a Carnegie Mellon alum and a Pittsburgh native.
While they have yet to reveal where they plan to build, the fried chicken restaurant is opening five locations across the region. The Pittsburgh area locations will be the first outside of Texas, where the restaurant is based.
Erik Mansmann, a franchise operator, is leading the effort to bring the Texas-based restaurant to his hometown. Mansmann is partnering with Henry Wang, a CMU alum.
Founder Mike Layne opened Layne’s Chicken Fingers in 1994 in College Station, Texas, home to the main campus of Texas A&M University. Since then, his goal has been to bring the same small-town appeal across the country with chicken fingers and their special sauces.
Advertising themselves as “soon to be famous,” Layne’s offers four specialty sauces to dip their namesake chicken fingers into, from traditional dips such as Honey Mustard to the “tangy, zesty, spicy” Layne’s Secret Sauce.
If you think chicken fingers are just for kids, the restaurant also offers various sandwiches and chicken wraps. Layne’s also has milkshakes and cookies to top off all those chicken fingers.
Currently, the franchise has eight restaurants in Texas and plans to continue its expansion beyond Pittsburgh.
Mansmann had worked with brands like Chipotle, Starbucks and Panera Bread before starting as director of operations at 3E Franchise LLC, a local business that brings franchises of other brands to the area. Wang says when it comes to opening restaurants, Mansmann is the real deal.
“My family is first-generation immigrants and very entrepreneurial, and I’ve always had the idea of the American dream in my mind,” says Wang. “My philosophy has always been to find people who are passionate; if you’re passionate, we can always make things work. When we first met Erik, he showed me that his energy was there; he had paid his dues, and he was a real unicorn.”
The Pittsburgh restaurants do not have an opening date yet.