By Natalie Simms
Since leaving Shorter University nearly three years ago, former Athletics Director Bill Peterson has focused on his entrepreneurial passion in growing Otter’s Chicken with his son, Will. The duo, with help of local investors, have taken their fast-casual restaurant concept specializing in freshly prepared (not frozen) chicken and opened three metro-Atlanta area restaurants with more on the way including a possible Rome location.
Peterson serves as chairman and Will as president and CEO of Peterson Foods LLC, which purchased the Otter’s Chicken Tenders Restaurant concept from the restaurant’s founding group (based in Nashville) in July 2013. They currently have three restaurants including locations on West Cobb Avenue in Marietta, Cumberland Pointe in Atlanta and Kennesaw Marketplace (Barrett Parkway and U.S. 41) which just opened in 2017.
“Our goal for the next five years is to have 10 locations in place in Georgia,” says Bill Peterson. “Then we’ll have to see where we grow and whether it’s organically ourselves or we add franchisees. But we hope to have a new opening in fall 2018…not sure where yet, maybe Carrollton or another in Cobb County. We have looked at locations in Rome and Cartersville as well.”
Otter’s offers chicken tender meals, chicken wraps, chicken sandwiches, salads and a variety of other menu options and portion sizes, including “tailgate meals” for large parties. The company has been scouting locations in the area but hasn’t found the spot. In the meantime, talks are under way to bring a food truck, Otter’s on the Road, to Rome full-time.
“We are taking to a group about starting a food truck in Rome. We have operated one some here in Cobb County but this truck would be full-time in Rome. It would probably be at a fixed location certain days of the week and mobile at other times. We’re still working all that out and nothing is finalized,” he says.
Peterson built a strong resume and a community of friends as athletics director at Shorter from 2007-2015, including a series of national championships as well as a team of coaches and sports administrators who have grown to better positions. One of which is former Shorter Women’s Basketball Coach Vic Mitchell, who joined the Otter’s Chicken team as Director of Catering and Community Relations.
“Vic (Mitchell) has done a tremendous job for us since he joined our team in August heading up our community relations and catering side of things. He is a fantastic addition to our team,” Peterson says. “Even though he had no restaurant experience, you can take a quality person with leadership and creativity that can impact the team for the better.”
For Peterson, it’s been a seamless transition going from athletics to business. After all, he came out of the business world in 2004 when he joined Shorter’s football staff under then-Coach Phil Jones. Peterson had owned Horizon Medical Products, which sold implantable medical devices, but he sold the company in 2004.
“It seems like in everything you do, there is competition…whether athletics or business. When I was at Shorter, we didn’t worry about the other schools like how West Georgia or North Alabama was doing. We just worked on Shorter and kept focus on us each day and worked to be the best in the nation. It’s the same in business. We just have to focus on doing our best and doing the best job for the customers and the competition will take care of itself,” he says.
The Petersons have tied athletics into the business with a heavy focus on community sports partnerships.
“We love athletics and when you walk in to one of our restaurants, there is a big board with a player of the week from each local high local high school in the area. We write a little story about what they did that week…it’s a great way to recognize the kids and their families,” he says. “In addition, Will and Vic work with the local high schools to feed the teams during the year. It’s exciting and fun to be building a fun business that gives back to the community.”
Click here for more on Otter’s menu.