The red neon sign hanging in a Campus Corner window emits a welcoming, but scandalous glow — a siren’s song drawing interest from passersby.
The prominent “XXX” might draw confused looks and a few double-takes, but those who investigate the establishment will find an innocuous, newly opened restaurant. It owes its identity and Norman location to a minor miscommunication — and the owner’s relationship with a former Ultimate Fighting Championship winner.
“It gets people talking,” said Enmanuel Sanchez, the manager of Triple X Chicken, one of Campus Corner’s newest and possibly most uniquely branded restaurants. “People always tag us on Instagram when they take pictures under the sign. The caption is always like, ‘I swear it’s just a fried chicken place, nothing else.’”
Triple X Chicken is a fried chicken restaurant offering a wide variety of sandwiches, side items and chicken baskets to serve almost every taste, Sanchez said. The original location opened in Burlingame, California, only seven months ago, but the restaurant has seen early success and sought to expand.
Sanchez said the decision to open in a college town was somewhat influenced by how a younger audience may connect with its branding.
“The fact that we can bring it to a college campus where some people are slightly, if not totally immature,” Sanchez said. “That’s part of the fun, you know? We have guys who are like, ‘What is this — fried chicken and strippers? What’s going on here?’”
Triple X Chicken’s unique branding was a fortunate accident said Nick Swinmurn, CEO of Fated Brands, the company that oversees Triple X Chicken.
“I had a designer, and I said, ‘Hey, we want a logo, and here’s three potential names we’re considering for this chicken sandwich concept,’” Swinmurn said. “And one of them was Chicken Ship, and (the logo) was going to kind of be like a chicken standing on the front of a boat in an admiral’s outfit.”
Bryan Zellner, a design professional who has worked for Swinmurn and Fated Brands and asked to design the Triple X Chicken logo, interpreted the request differently.
“I thought he said Chicken Strip,” Zellner said. “I thought it would be kind of funny to do an old, kind of sexy stripping hen.”
The original logo was not accepted, but it did spark creative thinking for the new restaurant’s brand, Swinmurn said.
“He came back to me with a logo of a chicken kind of covering itself, and I said, ‘Wait, what is this?’” Swinmurn said. “We can’t name a restaurant Chicken Strip, but I really actually liked the character — I liked the vibe of it all.”
Zellner said after some brainstorming, the name Triple X Chicken was decided on. While the provocative poultry is no longer featured in the logo, the Campus Corner location does feature wall paintings of suspiciously sultry chicken mascots.
“It’s a little bit spicy, and the chicken’s kind of doing the wink like, ‘Hey, don’t take this too seriously — it’s just supposed to be a fun place to get a chicken sandwich.’” Swinmurn said. “That seemed to be a combination we could build a brand around — a little bit spicy, a little bit fun.”
The distance between Triple X Chicken’s first and second locations may raise as many questions as its branding. Over 1,500 miles separate the Burlingame and Norman locations. Swinmurn said the decision was made, in part, to irritate a friend he met while promoting a clothing brand.
“I’m good friends with Daniel Cormier — he was the UFC light-heavyweight champion,” Swinmurn said. “He’s from Oklahoma State (University). He’s really passionate about Oklahoma State, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s an added bonus. We can tell him we’re opening a location in Norman.’”
Sanchez said the recent success of OU athletics and Triple X Chicken made this a perfect time to enter the community and serve sports fans that frequent Campus Corner.
“A lot of people ask, ‘Why Oklahoma?’” Sanchez said. “The past trajectory (OU) has had and recent history has been great. You have two Heisman winners in a row, and hopefully about to have a third ... You had Trae Young — so I mean Oklahoma is a great spot. All these positive things are happening at this place, and we’re very excited.”
Sanchez said he had spoken with the Campus Corner Association to get Triple X Chicken involved on game days.
“We already started talks about being able to have our tent (outside the restaurant) on game day,” Sanchez said. “We’re very excited to have our own merch and obviously just take advantage of the place and be able to offer something to the street.”
Sanchez said the restaurant has plans to cater to students in particular. While the exact details of any student discounts or deals that might be provided are currently unclear, the restaurant does offer a rewards program for frequent customers.
The restaurant is building an “outreach team,” Sanchez said, to help learn about events in the OU community and how it can be involved.
Swinmurn said he hopes people in Norman will help Triple X Chicken grow and become a beloved part of Campus Corner.
“Hopefully you just come out and give it a shot,” Swinmurn said. “Hopefully it’s one of those things where we’re the brand new outsider ... but over time people look back and think Triple X Chicken really had its second-ever location in Norman, and we become synonymous with that part of the country.”