Louisianians of the Year


Restaurateurs / lafayette

Southerners take fried chicken seriously. Anyone entering the competitive fried chicken market in Louisiana has to have a strong combination of confidence and know-how. But 28 years after Neal Onebane founded Krispy Krunchy Chicken in Lafayette, his company has blossomed into a worldwide presence.

In 1989, Onebane had already been in the convenience store business for 18 years. He recognized that most stores didn’t have food options that were appealing to customers. So he began frying chicken in one of his stores and created the Krispy Krunchy in-house brand.

This way, when customers went to a store and saw the Krispy Krunchy logo, they knew they’d get a good product instead of a greasy, day-old sandwich.

Since Krispy Krunchy is already in existing stores, it reduces the overhead that many restaurants spend on securing a location; because of this, Krispy Krunchy can offer a fresh (Onebane emphasized the chicken is never frozen) product at lower prices. Combined with the team’s extensive knowledge of how convenience stores operate, this method has helped the company prosper.

“We know convenience stores,” said Dan Shapiro, executive vice president for Krispy Krunchy Chicken. Shapiro started his working career as a third-shift convenience store cashier and has remained in the business ever since. “We know what works and what doesn’t work.”

When asked what the secret to creating tasty chicken is, Shapiro said it is injecting their marinade into the chicken itself, so the flavor is in both the chicken and the breading, as opposed to just the breading.

The formula is clearly working as Krispy Krunchy Chicken has expanded from its humble beginnings to over 2,200 locations worldwide, including chains in Malaysia and Mexico. Onebane expects Krispy Krunchy locations will soon be open in Egypt and India as well.

Krispy Krunchy is attracting media attention, too. A 2017 Thrillist article titled “You Probably Haven’t Heard of America’s Best Fried Chicken Chain” heaped praise upon the chicken and included a rave from New York restaurateur Dale Talde.

It has all been a dream come true for Onebane, who in the early days of Krispy Krunchy traveled around 80,000 miles a year to start new chains and spread the word about his chicken.

“It was 100 percent born in my mind and we’ve managed to execute it,” Onebane said. “I’ve never had to work a day in my life…I love what I do.”