When Scott Roberts opened his very first Zaxby’s restaurant, it was just the 17th store in the chain.
My, how times have changed.
Roberts is one of three partners who opened the Zaxby’s in McMinnville on Monday as the ribbon was cut on what is the chain’s 778th store.
“This is the 57th Zaxby’s we’ve opened this year,” said Zaxby’s corporate representative Ginger Redwine, who was in McMinnville for the big day. “We’re also opening one in Oklahoma City today. We’ll be at 800 stores in the next few months.”
Roberts, his daughter Brittany Stuckey, and business partner Steven Stembridge are the three co-owners of our Zaxby’s. If the crowds Monday are any indication, they have a winning formula. Customers swarmed the new restaurant eager to wrap their lips around Zaxby’s famous chicken.
“We’ve never been to a Zaxby’s and gotten anything bad,” said Kent Mullican, one of several people to stand in line Monday morning for the doors to open.
Kent and his wife, Joyce, say they’ve eaten at both Zaxby’s in Murfreesboro and also at the stores in Manchester and Cookeville.
“We usually save a piece of chicken to take home to our dog,” said Joyce. “She loves it too.”
Madison Smartt planned to be the first customer at our Zaxby’s on Monday. She arrived at 7:30 a.m. to ensure she would be first when the doors opened at 10:30 a.m.
However, when she left line briefly around 9:45 a.m., she returned to find herself fifth. Still, her spirit was not doused.
“I’m so ready for Zaxby’s,” Smartt said. “When I want chicken, Zaxby’s or Chick-fil-A are the two places I go.”
A junior at the University of Tennessee, Smartt said she can walk to the Zaxby’s in Knoxville. She was still contemplating her order while standing in line Monday.
“I love hot and I’ve been thinking about this. I’m either going to get the nuclear wings or the insane wings,” said Smartt, who selected nuclear when she reached the register.
So who ended up being the first Zaxby’s customer in McMinnville?
That distinction goes to Christian Wilkinson, a member of the WCHS class of 2016. He used his cellphone to make a video recording of his order as it was being prepared. For trivia enthusiasts, he got a chicken tender plate.
“I was hoping to get a gift certificate for being the first customer,” said Wilkinson. “But they did offer me a free milkshake.”
The Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony minutes before the doors opened with Stuckey doing the honors and cutting the ribbon. She said Zaxby’s employment was in the mid-40s and the restaurant would be looking to add to its workforce in the coming weeks.
The restaurant, located at 511 N. Chancery Street, is open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. It has seating for 70.