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Lola's Chicken Shack Keeps It Real

By Jake Levin

Family and community has always been at the core of everything for Nancy Rogers, the owner of Lola's Chicken Shack. Located in Alameda, Calif., even the name of the restaurant is in homage to Nancy's granddaughters, Logan and Talulah. On any given day, some three generations of the Rogers family are working at Lola's.

Her husband, Mark and son, Ryan, both had plenty of experience in the restaurant business, albeit with large franchised chains, but felt that chicken was underserved in the fast, casual types of restaurants.

Opened in December 2013, Rogers has operated Lola's under the philosophy of providing food that is both real and affordable in a welcoming, comfortable environment. It was the first, and possibly still only, 'sanctuary restaurant' in Alameda.

"We tell all of our employees during training that we are in the hospitality business that happens to sell food," Rogers said. "We want every customer to feel welcomed and comfortable. We are a very family friendly restaurant."

The majority of the menu at Lola's Chicken Shack is comprised of all-natural ingredients and is made from scratch using recipes that have been in the Rogers' family for years.

Signature breaded tenders with wasabi and orange sauces are favorites for Rogers herself, but she also enjoys the Cabo sandwich, Asian Citrus salad, and cream of chicken curry soup. You can't go wrong with the French fries and house-made sea salt chips, nor with the LolaMac, Lola's spin on mac and cheese which is sometimes dressed up with homemade pesto. Rogers said her favorite chicken burger was one titled the "Rusty Nail," adding that she eats at Lola's almost every day.

The staff at Lola's Chicken Shack is highly-trained, as its very first employees hail from the Kitchen of Champions, a culinary program run by the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room in neighboring Oakland. Rogers is also more than willing to give a second chance to aspiring employees through the Community Employment Opportunities program, which helps those incarcerated find jobs once they've been released. Teenagers from Philip's Academy, a high school for students with special needs, has sent some of its students to work at Lola's as well.

"Our employees will tell you that we are all family," Rogers said.

Lola's Chicken Shack has never done any paid advertising to spread the word of the restaurant. Instead, Rogers oversees "Dine and Donate" days with local schools and nonprofits where they share in the daily sales and contribute to many local causes. Lola's Chicken Shack received the Excellence in Business Award from stopwaste.org for its work in cutting down on disposable product use to help the environment.

"Currently, we are donating 20 percent of all gift cards purchased in October to Puerto Rico Relief," Rogers said, speaking of the hurricane which ravaged the island this summer. "We will be doing something similar for the victims of the fires in the North Bay. We believe the best way to get to be known is through word of mouth, have an excellent product and create win-win situations with the community."

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