Slim Chickens opened its doors at the first Rio Rancho location Wednesday morning, and it drew a huge crowd.

About 30 minutes before opening, more than 40 cars were lined up in the drive-thru and dozens of people were waiting outside the front door. It got even crazier as lunchtime approached.

“It’s a zoo here; they’re having a great grand opening, that’s for sure,” Bill Boothe said. “But they’re really fast; it’s great service here. They’re good people.”

Boothe had several bags of food and trays of drinks he was bringing to his wife’s office. An employee offered to help him carry the goods back to his car, which was nearly two blocks away.

Dennis Ekstrom, who owns all of the New Mexico Del Taco locations, recently added Slim Chickens to his portfolio. Since its founding in 2003, the brand has celebrated more than 200 locations opened and a fanatical following in 33 U.S. states, as well as international locations in the United Kingdom, with an overall goal of opening 600 restaurants by 2025. Ekstrom has one location open in Farmington and had hoped to have the Rio Rancho location open in July.

The Slim Chickens at 1909 Wellspring St. has been in the works since March 2022 and 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.

Wednesday, Ekstrom finally opened the doors in Rio Rancho.

“It’s been a long haul, but I’m very proud to see this today, that’s for sure,” Ekstrom said. “This is like the finale of all the hassles, the troubles. The employees keep getting pushed off. We lost a lot of people who had to go get other jobs because we kept getting pushed off. It’s just an incredible feeling that here it is.”

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

Ekstrom said when the Farmington location opened, it set a national Slim Chickens record for most sales in one day.

By looks of the crowd that gathered early Wednesday, that record could be in jeopardy.

“It’s gonna be crazy. It’s really unpredictable with what can happen here today,” Ekstrom said. “I mean, when we opened up Farmington, we set a record. We might do the same thing today.”

Tracy Carroll was the first person in line at the drive-thru. He arrived about an hour before opening to make sure he was the first one to taste Slim Chickens.

“I live in Paradise Hills and haven’t gone to the other side of town to try Raising Canes and then, of course, seeing this being built over time, it’s like you know what? I think I’m going to try and be the first one to check it out,” Carroll said. “I’ve never had Slim Chickens, but this looked great. It looked like it could be really good and very convenient.”

Ekstrom was beaming as the doors opened and customers flooded in.

“I’m extremely satisfied and excited,” Ekstrom said. “We’re happy to be a part of Rio Rancho and the whole community. I think they’re going to love us and we’re going to love them. It’s going to be a perfect mix.”

Slim Chickens is open 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and and 10:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.