At a team meeting Saturday morning before Hot Chicken Takeover opened its doors, the restaurant announced it had 709 pieces of chicken to sell that day.
It sold out in four hours.
That’s one piece of chicken sold about every 20 seconds.
“Shut up and make chicken!” staff cheered before breaking and going to work.
Hot Chicken Takeover has resided on the second floor of North Market since mid-December. Before then, it initially started in April in what owner Joe DeLoss described as “a tiny chicken window” in Olde Towne East.
But Hot Chicken Takeover’s roots lie south. During a visit to Nashville with his wife, DeLoss said he was inspired by the food and sense of community.
“It wasn’t pretentious,” DeLoss said. “It wasn’t overdone or over-polished. It was just a lot of people meeting at picnic tables with great food. It was something that I felt was missing here in Central Ohio.”
The chicken comes from Ohio farms and is delivered the day before it’s served. The chicken is brined overnight, double deep fried and then covered in a cayenne paste.
Spice levels for the chicken include cold, warm, hot and holy.
But it’s not all about the chicken, either.
“Another important piece of our business is that we intentionally hire folks that otherwise don’t have access to employment,“ DeLoss said. “Many of whom were previously incarcerated or affected by homelessness or generally affected by poverty and are looking to move themselves forward.”
DeLoss had used this employment model earlier when creating and launching a business for Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio called Freshbox Catering. He also dabbled in the restaurant business as a child, running a snack bar in his neighborhood that sold soda and candy bars to construction workers.
DeLoss said he was eager to get back to employing people himself with Hot Chicken Takeover.
“Our team is not necessarily ‘culinary,’ but we’re passionate about our employees and what we do,” DeLoss said.
Henry Dolin, a third-year at Ohio State in globalization studies, is an intern at Hot Chicken Takeover.
“At its core, it’s a really very people-oriented business,” Dolin said.
Dolin said they have “fabulous regulars” and he loves seeing familiar faces.
And Hot Chicken Takeover will soon be taking over the road.
DeLoss said that after generous donations to the restaurant’s Kickstarter fund in October, a Hot Chicken Takeover food truck will be launching in March. Currently open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the restaurant also plans to expand its operation to be open on Thursday as well as Friday through Sunday.
“It’s energetic and I get a very people-centric, caring mission about this place,” Dolin said. “I think it’s very reflective of Columbus and what people value here.”