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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Layne’s Chicken Fingers owner retires, original locations acquired by corporate

Photo by Photo by Ishika Samant

The inside of Layne’s Chicken Fingers on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. 

Locally-founded restaurant Layne’s Chicken Fingers is tapping into the national fried chicken market as its original owner steps back to retire.

After spending the last 30 years dedicated to his restaurant, Layne’s original owner Mike Garratt is heading into retirement. Layne’s corporate team is taking the reins to oversee the three original College Station locations, along with expanding the company through nationwide franchising opportunities.

Since Layne’s was “born and breaded” in 1994 by Mike Layne, it has been a local favorite. Its first location was popularized for its “small-town charm, friendly service and iconic chicken fingers and secret sauce,” according to it’s website.

Layne’s has seven other Texas locations and has begun expanding into other states, with plans to focus on Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, according to its website. By the end of the year, five restaurants are set to open later this year, with 15 more already planned for 2024.

A College Station native, Garratt began as a regular customer in 1994 and typically ate lunch there after a long day of working for his dad’s construction company. Layne befriended Garratt, eventually offering him a job during his junior year at Texas A&M. Garratt said he enjoyed working there and worked his way up the business ladder to a manager position in 1997. By 1999, Garratt was preparing to graduate.

“That’s the point where I approached Layne and told him I wanted to buy his portion of the restaurant out, or I was going to go get a real job,” Garratt said. “So he sold me his portion and in 1999, I became the sole owner of Layne’s.”

During his time as sole owner, Garratt opened two other locations in College Station, and said he was touched to see the restaurant become intertwined with A&M’s culture.

“We’ve made it a really friendly atmosphere for the students to come and enjoy a meal,” Garratt said. “I think since Layne’s was started here and founded in College Station, it embraces A&M so much that in turn, A&M students have really kind of taken an ownership in Layne’s, and they feel like Layne’s is an Aggie thing.”

Over the years, other potential investors noticed Layne’s success, but Garratt was never interested in listening to their bids to franchise, he said.

Chief Operating Officer Garrett Reed, a College Station native, and business partner Matthew O’Reilly were drawn to Layne’s for their love of its chicken, Reed said. The more they met, Garratt felt comfortable with expanding the company with their help.

“We want to take the brand across the United States, it can be done,” Samir Wattar, chief operating officer, said. “And that’s how I ended up here. Because we have the food, we have the culture and all we have to do is take care of it and take it across to everybody.”

After years of running Layne’s, Garratt wants to step back. Although Garratt won’t oversee the day-to-day operations of the original locations, Reed said Garratt will remain “a major voice of the culture” on the board of directors.

Garratt operated the College Station locations independently from corporate while new franchise locations began popping up in Texas. New locations began offering more menu options, such as spicy chicken fingers, wraps, new sauces, milkshakes and more; Garratt wanted to focus on only selling Layne’s iconic five-finger box, Reed said.

Reed said Layne’s plans to preserve the original look and feel of its first location, but its other locations will be updated to match the current brand image. In the coming weeks, Reed said patrons can expect to see small, positive changes.

“We’ll have a lot more offerings on the menu, but it’s the same chicken, the same price, same fries,” Reed said. “Everything’s the same … It’ll just be the actual heart of the restaurant, the equipment will be upgraded. Our speed of service will increase tremendously.”

side from maintaining its look and culture, Reed said patrons can benefit from a wider menu selection and online ordering through their app, along with a loyalty rewards system.

Reed said he feels confident about Layne’s plan to tap into the nationwide fried chicken market. He said the restaurant’s deeply ingrained Aggie values make them better than every other fried chicken restaurant.

“I don’t mean to be cocky or arrogant, but we got a little bit of that Aggie Spirit,” Reed said. “We’re not worried about it. We’re just gonna go do it. The way Mike’s always done it.”

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About the Contributor
Ana Renfroe
Ana Renfroe, Head News Editor
Ana Renfroe, Class of 2025, is a journalism junior with a minor in professional writing from Bryan, Texas. Ana has served as The Battalion's head news editor from May 2023 to May 2024. Previously, she was the assistant news editor for the spring 2023 semester. Ana has covered breaking news, politics, and more. She typically covered the Texas A&M System and university administration, Texas and Bryan-College Station politics, student government and more. Ana previously hosted and produced episodes of The Batt Signal, The Battalion's news podcast. Additionally, she was a copyeditor and feature writer for Maroon Life magazine, and helped contribute to the Aggieland Yearbook.
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