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Former Sudan refugee becomes Chicken Salad Chicken franchisee

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Chicken Salad Chick is expanding in Illinois with its newest restaurant in East Peoria.

“Becoming a business owner has been a lifelong dream of mine,” Franchisee Yonas Hagos said in a company press release. “In my teenage years, I shoveled driveways, worked in fast-food restaurants, cut grass — anything to make money to support my goal, and here I am today, opening my fourth franchise concept.”

Although Hagos now owns seven Dunkin’ Donuts locations, one Arby’s restaurant and 12 Smoothie Kings, he had a rocky start in life. He and his family fled a Sudan refugee camp more than two decades ago. They moved to Wheaton, Illinois, where Hagos began working at a fast-food restaurant at the age of 14 and stayed in the foodservice industry until his enlistment in the military after the 9/11 attacks. Hagos completed tours in Germany, Kuwait and Iraq and after nearly losing his life, was awarded a purple heart for his efforts.

Upon his return to the U.S., he eventually opened his restaurants and plans to open an additional Chicken Salad Chick unit in Bloomington over the next few years.

“Chicken Salad Chick is the perfect addition to my portfolio because the brand combines the fresh, flavorful menu items that guests crave with an inclusive and welcoming ambiance that keeps guests coming back for more,” Hagos said. “I can’t wait to start this next chapter and look forward to introducing Central Illinois to this one-of-a-kind restaurant.”

Following the brand’s Illinois debut last year in Edwardsville, the East Peoria location marks Chicken Salad Chick’s second restaurant in Illinois and first in the central region. Located at 412 West Washington St., it will celebrate its grand opening July 14 by offering free chicken salad for a year to the first 100 guests. Those awarded will be properly distanced and will receive a designated return time upon arrival to spread out the number of guests at the restaurant throughout the day, according to the release.

As Illinois continues to reopen, Chicken Salad Chick is following state guidelines and will open the East Peoria restaurant at limited capacity with social distancing measures in place. Additionally, all employees will wear masks and gloves, as well as practice proper handwashing and food safety protocol.

Chicken Salad Chick was established in 2008 by founder Stacy Brown and now has160 restaurants in 17 states.

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