Joe Douglas is a cornerstone of the restaurant and real estate businesses in Charlotte and beyond.
His résumé boasts the popular 131 Main restaurants and other ventures. So when his daughter had the idea for a casual eatery serving only chicken, Tenders Fresh Food was born.
Although Douglas is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant, his stamp of extreme customer service and excellent food permeates the place.
He also brought in a business associate, Steve Yoxsimer, from another restaurant venture to oversee Tenders as it grows. And grows.
The simple concept appeals to just about everybody because when you keep it uncomplicated, the result is scrumptious.
The Tenders tenet is fresh food fast. This means they don’t use freezers and buy never-frozen, all-natural and hormone-free chicken.
Every single sauce is homemade and there is a good list: blue cheese; ranch; blueberry-ginger vinaigrette; and creamy garlic just to name a few. And the sauces are simple; for example, the honey mustard has only five ingredients.
Every chicken and turkey breast and tender is hand-breaded; the lettuce is cut daily for the salads and sandwiches; and the cabbage is shredded every day for the slaw. The menu is intentionally small so that items can consistently be of the highest quality, explains manager Justin Trask.
The restaurant also has hand-spun milkshakes made with the same exacting quality as the food. The peanut butter in the peanut butter chocolate milkshake is homemade and the result is old fashioned decadence. Happy Hour is every day from 2-4 p.m. with half price milkshakes.
For other drink options, Tenders also boasts two Coca-Cola Freestyle machines.
Tenders has a diehard customer base. The same people come in over and over to the restaurant. And some of these patrons are privy to the ‘secret menu‘ choices.
“Yes, you can order any fried chicken or turkey sandwich grilled,” Yoxsimer said, smiling. “You can also substitute a bun for a lettuce wrap on any sandwich.”
In fact, since all sandwiches are made after you order, customers can substitute whatever they wish.
Although there is often a line out the door during lunch, customers will still get their food very quickly.
“We will get your food to you before you even get your drink,” Trask said.
Bob McKenna, of Huntersville, loves to eat at Tenders.
“It is simple with great quality and good prices,” he said. “There are no bells and whistles but the place is immaculate and the food is unbelievable.”
Tenders is growing into a chain through the PDQ, People Dedicated to Quality, brand. There are 10 PDQ stores open in North Carolina and Florida, with 10 more to open by the end of the year. The new stores have a vastly different decor than the original Tenders, which is the only one to retain that name, but the same menu. The PDQs are full of stainless steel with a modern feel.
Tenders, however, rocks an old-school vibe. The building has been in Cornelius for years. It is tidy with a red, white and blue color scheme and the feel of a old-time diner.
The restaurant is casual but with the customer service of a sit-down place. A concise menu done exceptionally well. “It’s simple,” Yoxsimer said. “We just try to make the very best food.”
Tenders Fresh Food
18341 Statesville Road, Cornelius