Dennis Ekstrom is bringing Slim Chickens to Rio Rancho, just not as soon as he had hoped.

Ekstrom, who owns all of the New Mexico Del Taco locations, recently added Slim Chickens to his portfolio. The popular chicken restaurant chain has more than 100 locations in 19 states, with international locations in the U.K. and Kuwait. Ekstrom has one location open in Farmington and hopes to have the Rio Rancho location open by the end of July.

“I love Slim Chickens. I just fell in love with that brand,” Ekstrom said. “It’s just a very simple brand, excellent quality food. It’s a very simple operation, in my opinion, very limited things on the menu that we do extremely well. Better than anybody. And it’s got that Southern atmosphere, comfortable vibe. The food is incredible.”

The Slim Chickens at 1909 Wellsprings St. was originally scheduled to open on July 17 but Ekstrom said he has had issues with getting a transformer to power that store, which has been a problem across the country since COVID.

Ekstrom, who started his career as a dishwasher at Denny’s three decades ago, has plenty of experience in dealing with the headaches of trying to open a new business. The opening of Slim Chickens hasn’t gone smoothly, and Ekstrom is very much looking forward to opening day.

“That day is gonna be a blessing and exciting and a landmark for trying to get this done,” Ekstrom said. “So it’s just a celebration. It’s the finish line, really, for the beginning of a beautiful business relationship.”

Ekstrom lives in Arizona but spends most of his time in Albuquerque. He noticed the response when the first Raising Cane’s location opened in Albuquerque in May with out-of-the-door lines and more than 6,000 customers being served on opening day and is expecting a similar response in Rio Rancho for Slim Chickens.

“I really, really am. Maybe not quite like that because of Montgomery traffic jams and some of that stuff, but I think we’re gonna see something real similar,” Ekstrom said. “And we’ve learned a lot by watching how they dealt with that in terms of routing and traffic, timing and execution. If we’re good at that, we’re set up for that kind of business.”

The new Slim Chickens location in Rio Rancho will also make a positive economic impact with more than 100 new jobs anticipated for the community. It will offer a full menu featuring tenders, wings, sandwiches, wraps, sweet desserts, classic Southern sides and 17 house dipping sauces.

“Everything is cooked to order; everything is fresh. It’s really, really good,” Ekstrom said. “It’s superior to anything else out there. And 17 dipping sauces. There’s 17 excellent choices, so we basically appeal to everybody. The flavor and taste of our food is definitely superior. It’s really good. Sides are unmatched. You can’t find our sides anywhere else. Slim’s brings them to everybody in one place, and it’s just a fun, comfortable place to g,o and I really can’t wait to introduce it. Once you try it, I think you’ll become addicted. I think you’ll try it over and over and over. Our store in Farmington set records when we opened that store for the entire brand, and we hope to do the same thing in Rio Rancho.”