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Bojangles’ reaches a milestone: 600 stores

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/08/19/40/1vh5HI.Em.138.jpeg|237
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    CEO Clifton Rutledge speaks to the crowd, on Tuesday as Bojangles' opened itsr 600th restaurant, at 1604 Galleria Blvd. in Charlotte.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/08/19/40/14z658.Em.138.jpeg|209
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    Providence High School NJROTC members, from left, Alexander Selby 17, Will Cunius 15, and Michael Baxas 15, raise the American flag Tuesday during the flag-raising ceremony at the new Bojangles’ at 1604 Galleria Blvd. in Charlotte.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/08/19/40/1qX0sZ.Em.138.jpeg|325
    Sandie Wyllie -
    Clifton Rutledge, CEO of Bojangles’

Bojangles’, the Charlotte-based fast-food company expecting to reach $1 billion in sales this year, marked another milestone on Tuesday – the opening of its 600th restaurant.

The newest site, on Galleria Boulevard off Monroe Road, is among 55 to 60 locations the company expects to add this year. The first Bojangles’ opened its doors in Charlotte almost 40 years ago, a walk-up fried chicken restaurant with 30 employees. Currently, the company has restaurants in 10 states and Washington, D.C., as well as three locations in Honduras. It expects to open its first Kentucky store in two weeks.

Bojangles’, which is privately held and does not disclose sales figures, recorded its largest week ever last week thanks to the July Fourth holiday, said Bojangles’ CEO Clifton Rutledge.

After expanding outside the Southeast in the 1980s, Bojangles’ shrank to fewer than 200 restaurants. Now, the company considers itself a regional chain.

While national fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s have added a growing selection of menu items to appeal to healthy eaters, Rutledge said the company will continue to focus on what it knows: fried chicken, biscuits and iced tea. Bojangles’ offers two salads, but the most popular item is still the cajun filet biscuit.

“Bojangles’ is never going to be the diet place to eat,” said Rutledge. “We’re going to concentrate on our core menu.”

His favorite? “The ham, egg and cheese biscuit,” he said. “I get one every morning, and my waistline is showing it.”

Rutledge came to Bojangles’ six months ago from another regional fast-food company, the Texas-based burger chain Whataburger. He said there’s something about catering to a “passionate fan following” that doesn’t always come with national chains.

Rutledge said he anticipates Bojangles’ will eventually try again at expanding farther into the South and Midwest but will stick to the Southeast region for the next five years or so. “We were born in the Southeast, and we have plenty of opportunities to grow here.”

Adams-Heard: 704-358-5197; Twitter: @racheladhe

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