A patron at a popular fast food franchise Slim Chickens restaurant in Pensacola, Florida, found a roach in her husband’s chicken tender. But when she complained to a manager, she said it was a battle to get a refund.
The customer, Haile Kirkland, 30, posted about her experience on Facebook, and the post has since gone viral.
Slim Chickens is a fast-casual restaurant chain that specializes in chicken tenders, wings, sandwiches, salads, wraps, chicken & waffles, and other items. It was founded in 2003 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, by Greg Smart and Tom Gordon. Another co-founder Ryan Hodson left the company in 2012.
The company started franchising its restaurants in 2014 and now have restaurants spread across 14 states and around the world. The two international locations are in the United Kingdom and Kuwait, Arkansas Money and Politics reported.
In 2019, Slim Chickens opened its 100th store. The Pensacola franchise is owned by Craig Hacklander, according to Business Insider.
According to Kirkland, she went to the franchise location in Pensacola for an anniversary lunch on Feb. 16 with her husband and ordered two “Hungry Meals.” The meal included seven chicken tenders, two slices of toast, a side, and two dips.
“My husband put a piece of his chicken down that he started to eat,” she told Business Insider. He told her to look at the piece of chicken and Kirkland saw “the cockroach cooked into the side of the chicken.”
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“At first I thought it was a burnt spot,” Kirkland told WEAR Pensacola. “And then when I picked it up I said, ‘That’s a whole bug.’
She explained to Business Insider that she informed the manager about the roach in her food, who was rude. “I brought it to the front counter and asked for a manager because I didn’t want to make a scene,” Kirkland said, adding that she attempted to “quietly address it with him.”
Kirkland said the manager was “extremely rude and unprofessional” and brushed her off by saying, “Eh, it happens.”
She said she had to fight with the manager to get a refund for the meal. When she got no response from the company, she decided to post a video on Facebook. The post has been shared nearly 1,500 times since Feb. 16 and resulted in an anonymous employee sending Kirkland other videos of showing roaches crawling in various spots in the kitchen. She added the employee videos to her original post.
On Feb. 19, Kirkland received an email from Hacklander, who apologized for the roach in her food and the manager’s response. He said he was “embarrassed and apologetic.” He also assured her that he was working with pest controllers to remedy the situation.
Hacklander offered Kirkland a Slim Chickens gift voucher. Then on Feb. 25, Kirkland said he asked her to take down the Facebook post because coverage of the incident “has really hurt our business.”
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation inspected the restaurant and found another 16 dead cockroaches in the store, ABC affiliate WEAR reported. A follow-up inspection found no violations, and, according to WEAR, the location had not received a complaint or health code violation since its opening in March 2021.
“My team was immediately made aware of the complaint, and we responded swiftly to ensure all health and safety precautions were evaluated,” the franchise owner told WEAR.
He added, “I met with our local pest elimination company the following morning at the restaurant to thoroughly inspect the premises and provide further pest elimination treatment. Although we believe all pest activity has been resolved, they will continue to come out weekly to monitor and provide additional treatments as needed.”
Despite all of this, Kirkland said she would give the restaurant another try once it’s proven to be clean.
“I’m not gonna lie; they have some of the best chicken in town, I just need it to be clean,” Kirkland said.
In a Feb. 28 email to The Moguldom Nation, Slim Chickens’ corporate’s marketing and PR representative issued statements about the company’s response to the health issue and social media post, saying that it is aware of the complaint at the locally owned Pensacola store and had begun an investigation into the issue.
“Our local franchisee responded swiftly to the social post to ensure all health & safety precautions were evaluated and implemented at the Pensacola location. The franchisee met with the local pest elimination company the following morning at the restaurant to thoroughly inspect the premises and provide further pest elimination treatment,” the company’s PR person wrote.
“All pest activity has been resolved and the pest control company will continue to come out weekly to monitor and provide additional treatments as needed.
“The local Health Inspector arrived on Wednesday 2/22 and approved the location with no issues or violations. The franchisee is continuing to work with the local Health Inspector and provide full access to ensure the quality of our food and guest experience.”
Slim Chickens co-founders (L-R) Greg Smart and Tom Gordon (Photo: from company website, https://slimchickens.com/)/ Chicken images: Haile Kirkland,