Biz Beat

A new fast food chain is coming to Modesto and Merced; when and where it’s planned

Oh, Modesto, are you in for a treat. Because you’re about to experience Rally’s french fries for the first time.

The fast food chain Rally’s and Checkers — which share the same ownership, food and look — is expanding into Northern California in a big way with new restaurants planned for the Modesto, Merced and Stockton areas. Known for its drive-thru-only design, big burgers and seasoned fries, the company is already a household name on the East Coast and through much of the South and Midwest.

But in California, the chain currently only has a presence in the southern and central parts of the state, with its farthest northern location currently in Los Banos.

Merced is poised to have a Rally’s later this year. Three more restaurants are planned for Modesto and four for Stockton as the company extends its reach into the region.

But back to the really important news, which is about those french fries. Now, as a connoisseur of all salty and fatty foods, I can tell you the Rally’s fries are a unique taste and texture sensation. Imagine if an Arby’s curly fry and a Five Guys skin-on fry had crispy fry babies and you kind of get the idea. The coated and seasoned fries were always the main attraction when we were having a don’t-judge-me-we’re-going-through-the-drive-thru dinners growing up in the Midwest.

Rally’s fries have inspired whole Pinterest pages on how to recreate them at home and topped online lists of the best fast food fries in the country. You can even buy them in the freezer section of some supermarkets, for fellow transplants like me who don’t live near a Rally’s or Checkers — yet.

Checkers 2.jpg
The fast food chain Checkers/Rally’s is coming to the Modesto area and should open three locations starting in 2020. Checkers & Rally's

The company started as independent Checkers and Rally’s burger chains in the mid-1980s. Then in 1999, the chains merged but kept their individual names based on their geographic region — Checkers in the Southeast and Rally’s in the Midwest and now California. Except for the names on the logos, everything else about the restaurants is the same, down to its black-and-white checkered design and red emblem.

Rally’s has five locations in Fresno already, and a franchisee plans to open a site in Merced at 2019 Childs Avenue, next to Golden Valley High School. Expect construction to begin later this year with an eye toward a Thanksgiving opening, said Robert Bhagwandat, Checkers and Rally’s director of franchise development. Then the same franchisee will turn building attention to the north with a Modesto location opening by summer 2020.

The future Modesto sites will all be part of the company’s 4.0 restaurant design, which is constructed off-site in a warehouse in the company’s home state of Florida. The prefabricated pieces are then shipped and assembled on site, speeding up the construction process by six to eight weeks.

Bhagwandat said the company is looking at downtown near K and Ninth Streets and around the Modesto Junior College West Campus for its first potential Modesto sites.

“(The valley) is a natural fit for us,” Bhagwandat said. “I think people will be quite pleasantly surprised once they have a chance to have the food. People are always surprised just how much flavor we pack into the food.”

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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