Two growing Bay Area restaurant chains focused on the same Thai-style chicken and rice dish, khao mun gai, are merging their teams and operations. Chick’n Rice, founded in 2017 by the creators of delivery service Caviar, will join Rooster & Rice, whose first of three SF locations opened in 2015.
“The industry was getting pretty fragmented,” says Min Park, who brokered the deal on behalf of Chick’n Rice. “I admired what [co-founders] Bryan Lew and Tommy Charoen were doing at Rooster & Rice... We’re competitors, but if we could join forces, we thought... we could combine their excellent food with our tech knowledge and financial skills.”
Under the merger, Chick’n Rice will adopt the Rooster & Rice name, brand, and simpler menu with fewer items. “We’re planning to go Rooster & Rice all the way,” says Chick’ Rice co-founder Vince Cao.
Both of Chick’n Rice’s locations are currently closed: The newer San Jose branch is currently rebranding itself as Rooster & Rice. Meanwhile, Chick’n Rice’s original location in Berkeley is closed indefinitely as the teams consolidate their expansion plans.
To casual local diners, a proliferation of khao mun gai — simple poached chicken served over fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth — might appear some sudden craze. But it’s an older fixation in Singapore, where khao mun gai is the national dish, and Thailand, where it’s available at ubiquitous street carts. In the Western US, Thai-style chicken rice has been propelled to popularity by hit Portland food cart Nong’s Khao Man Gai, and gained traction on Bay Area restaurant menus like chef James Syhabout’s Hawker Fare. Last year, Syhabout opened his own khao mun gai dedicated counter-service restaurant, Hawking Bird.
Next up for the newly enlarged Rooster & Rice: Three new locations, one in Pleasanton at 3120 Santa Rita Road, a second in San Jose at the Westfield Valley Fair mall, and a new San Francisco outpost at Stanyan and Geary.
“We’re really excited about the partnership,” says Bryan Lew, who will be the company’s CEO overall.
Correction, 6:55 p.m.: A previous version of this post misattributed a quote by Min Park to Vince Cao.