Chicken With a Mission

New Restaurant Brings Good Food and Good Works to Norman

by Paige Uhr

Are you hungry for a cause? PDQ – short for People Dedicated to Quality – is more than a drive-through restaurant that serves hand-breaded chicken tenders. It can also satisfy its customer’s appetite for serving the community.

Also known for being “pretty darn quick,” the chain originated when founders Bob Basham, a co-founder of Outback Steakhouse, and Nick Reader went on a road trip to find inspiration. They found it at a mom-and-pop neighborhood joint in North Carolina, where they discovered “the tastiest, handmade chicken tenders.”

They made a deal immediately and opened the first PDQ in Tampa, Fla. in 2011. Since then, the chain has spread to more than 60 locations nationwide, including two in Oklahoma, one in Edmond and one in Oklahoma City. Norman will be the state’s third location, and the restaurant is slated to open May 12 at 2180 NW 24th Ave.

Although the restaurant is a nationwide chain, PDQ is heavily entrenched in each community it serves. Locally, PDQ has partnered with several youth organizations, including the YMCA and the Kiwanis Club of Oklahoma City, as well as campus activity groups at the University of Central Oklahoma.

The company offers support through other opportunities, such as sponsoring events with PDQ’s boxed lunches, family give-back nights at the restaurant and gift-card programs where organizations can sell the gift cards for profit.

“We try to find a way to say yes when we are asked to help the community,” said Marcus Tilley, vice president of Traditions Fast Casual Holdings, a franchisee for PDQ locations in Oklahoma. “We can’t do everything, but we sure can do a lot.”

After deciding to open a store in Norman, Tilley wanted to form a relationship with the University of Oklahoma and soon partnered with Sooner Sports Properties to create a program called PDQ Teacher of the Game. PDQ will select 14 teachers throughout the year from a pool of nominations submitted online by guests. The teachers will be recognized at one of OU’s home football games or other athletic events.

In addition, the PDQ team will show up at the teacher’s classroom with its mascot, boxed lunches for all students and have a celebration in the room. Teachers are rewarded with $1,000 from PDQ, a two-night stay at The Artesian Hotel in Sulphur, Oklahoma, PDQ swag, passes to the restaurant and tickets to an OU sporting event.

“This is a way we can give back and say, ‘We appreciate you’,” Tilley said.

Norman’s grand opening will be nothing short of a celebration. There will be a flag raising ceremony and a blessing over the building from a local church. The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band and cheerleaders will be there, and the first 50 guests to arrive will receive a $50 gift card, PDQ swag and free lunch that day.

“We could not be more excited about coming into Norman and sharing our product with the community,” Tilley said.

PDQ offers a unique menu with a wide range of chef-driven recipes, all made on-site with farm fresh ingredients. In addition to its tenders, tossed salads and milkshakes, they also offer premium items that change seasonally, such as the Pimento Crunch Sandwich and the Thai Peanut Rice Bowl.

“We have the broadest chicken menu,” Tilley said. “Our chefs work hard to set us apart from the rest.”

Queso is also featured on the menu, and while there are no chips, Tilley recommends dipping their newly added tots, or adding it to the Saucy bowl.

Tenders and nuggets are served with 14 different sauces, including sweet sriracha, buffalo bleu and creamy garlic. Health-conscious guests can indulge in a selection of salads or rice bowls for plenty of meal options sans the guilt.

“You can treat yourself as much as you want with fried food and shakes, or you can choose to eat healthy with one of our fresh salads,” Tilley said.

PDQ also offers catering and platters are available for almost any menu item, including tenders, nuggets, salads and even sides.

Tilley said PDQ places just as much emphasis on the quality, speed and customer service they provide to their guests. It is especially important that customers feel valued each time they visit the store.

“It’s all about building relationships with them,” he said. “We are people dedicated to quality at the end of the day.”

For more information on PDQ’s menu or catering options, visit www.eatpdq.com. – BSM

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