Franchising duo Henry Wang and Erik Mansmann are bringing the hometown chicken finger restaurant to their city.
Layne’s Chicken Fingers, the Soon to be Famous fried chicken restaurant, is expanding to Pittsburgh with plans for five new locations across the city. Henry Wang, Principal of TMD Holdings and 3E Group, has joined forces with Erik Mansmann, Director of Operations at 3E Franchise, to bring the brand to their hometown.
“To be able to have something as rich in history as Layne’s and to be the first franchisee outside of Texas is really exciting,” Mansmann said. “To be able to work with Henry and our team to take this and make it even larger in the way we plan to is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us. I’m so excited about it.”
After many years in corporate America, both Wang and Mansmann decided it was time for a change.
“What I do is I’m a diehard entrepreneur. I graduated from Carnegie Mellon — a real nerd. My family is first-generation immigrants and very entrepreneurial, and I’ve always had the idea of the American dream in my mind,” Wang said. “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.”
In the past, Mansmann had worked with brands like Chipotle, Starbucks and Panera Bread. At 3E Franchise, he is responsible for all of the guest-facing businesses and recently opened his 103rd location with the company. Alongside management and openings, Wang tasked Mansmann with identifying additional brands to franchise with.
“We can’t just have one brand if we want to grow and grow aggressively,” Wang explained. “I asked Erik to start looking out for other brands, and he came back to me and said, ‘I think I found a unicorn.’”
Wang said Layne’s is a great fit because of the shared mindset. He recalls a conversation with the brand’s leadership where someone said that everyone can sell chicken, but Layne’s differentiates itself with passion and service.
“It was music to our ears, so we flew down there and had a meeting with them,” he said.
“We’re very excited,” said Samir Wattar, Layne’s Chicken COO. “We met Henry and Erik about four months ago, and they bring a lot to the table. Erik has been in operations for a long time and has worked for companies like Panera and Chipotle. We feel like they will be a great partner for us, and entering a new market with people like that is very exciting.”
As the team works to get the five locations open, Wang said that the biggest challenge has been real estate.
“You know, a lot of people were having issues with people,” he said. “Erik has built a team and has a well-known name in this region, so a lot of people will just follow him. The hardest part has been that, in the Northeast, we don’t have a ton of land.”
However, both men are confident in the team’s ability to execute the expansion. “Sure, there might be something around the corner that might surprise us, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there — or build it,” Mansmann said.
“When you’re building a small company from scratch, that’s a roller coaster ride. It’s very stressful,” Wang explained. “You just need a team that has the people who have been through it. It’s not easy, but we have good karma, we put our heads down and keep doing it, and it always works out.”
Ultimately, the duo hopes to see great success with the five locations currently in progress, and they plan to continue expansion as much as possible.
“How high is high?” Mansmann asked. “I think we have the opportunity to be one of Layne’s largest franchise organizations in our current agreement.”
Franchise opportunities range from $656,000 – $1,280,500 with different buildout options available. Learn more about franchising here.
Founded in 1994 in College Station, the original location became a Texas A&M legend known for its small-town charm, friendly service, iconic chicken fingers and secret sauce. While opening corporate locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the leadership team focused on fine tuning its operations and starting to franchise. Now, the company is planning to bring Layne’s Soon to be Famous Chicken Fingers to the rest of the world with plans to open 100 locations by the next four years.
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