<strong>Our plan in Salt Lake City is to open eight restaurants in five years, and we&#39;re in the second year of that plan</strong> – Greg Vojnovic, vice president of development

SALT LAKE CITY — The Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen chain of restaurants is lining up franchises in Utah.

"Our plan in Salt Lake City is to open eight restaurants in five years, and we're in the second year of that plan," said Greg Vojnovic, the company's vice president of development.

The company and potential franchise owners are looking at possible locations for the popular Cajun chicken eateries. The first Salt Lake-area restaurant could be open by the end of this year or early next year.

There is one Popeyes in Utah already, though it is on Hill Air Force Base where only those authorized to get past the base's armed guards at the gate have access. The exclusive location in Utah is even used as a recruiting tool.

Television advertising for Popeyes that comes to this area has helped prime the pump for expanding franchises here, and feature news stories in December in the Deseret News and on KSL gave the chain significant traction at a major franchise trade conference in Las Vegas last week.

"Every single person there from Utah had read those articles," Vojnovic said. Experienced owners of other franchises "used to think they had all the time in the world to decide whether they wanted to think about it. Now they realize 'I'm not the only guy looking at this.'"

Popeyes' menu includes spicy Cajun chicken and other Cajun favorites like crawfish etoufee, jambalaya and red beans with rice.

Regionally popular but much smaller than some restaurant food chains, Popeyes is riding a growth wave. The company points to research that counts 560,000 new restaurant jobs in the U.S. over the past two years. Vojnovic said the brand is doing well, opening more new locations last year than all national franchies except McDonalds and Burger King.

"Salt Lake City is one of those top priority markets," Vojnovic said. The family-oriented population and a favorable business climate has pushed Salt Lake to the top of the company's new-market list. "It's not real hard to start a business there. The long-term prospects in Salt Lake are very, very strong."

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