In 2003, the son of Zankou Chicken's founders killed his sister and mother, then himself, casting a tragic pall over the Middle Eastern chicken chain that was rapidly gaining fame beyond L.A. with the city's beloved rotisserie chicken and garlic sauce. Today, The L.A. Times looks at the family's tattered relations, revealing that the chain's far-reaching expansion plan has been slowed by infighting and self-described "bad feelings" between two sides of the same family. Fans doubtlessly wondered, so what exactly happened to Zankou's momentum?
The restaurants in Hollywood and Montebello are owned by the Marjik brothers (whose mother was shot by her brother, Mardiros ) in conjunction with an aunt. The other eight Zankou's are operated by a different daughter of the founding family, who says "I don't think things can be fixed," when asked about the rift that existed even before the killings, following the death of founder Vartkes Iskenderian. As many hungry Angelenos already know, Zankou locations have inconsistencies in both experience and prices, something all heirs agree are impeding its expansion, eerily one of the very issues that started the arguing that eventually set Mardiros off.
Divided for more than seven years after the tragedy, and despite the addition of a few locations locally, once red-hot Zankou appeared mostly stagnant through the last decade at a time they should have become a national name. Industry analysts also say it would be a good time to take advantage of cheaper real estate.
With both families striving for growth of the restaurant, we're hoping Zankou and the family members who feel so connected to this piece of their--and our-- heritage manage a happy ending, despite a horrific tragedy. "If a restaurant is divided, it will eventually fail," says the same Marjik brother named for his grandfather; the father of one of L.A.'s favorite dishes.