With record-setting sales, healthy AUVs, and a new modern store design on the horizon, the Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Annual Brand Conference focused on brand updates and growth for the future of the franchise. Artemis Lane Partners and CEO Ryan Weaver became new owners last year of the heritage brand, originally founded in 1962 by “the Colonel’s” nephew Lee Cummings and business partner Harold Omer, and made good on their commitment to invest further into the brand, purchasing 12 existing stores in the first 12 months, putting what Weaver says is “skin in the game” in its commitment to building the brand’s future.
“Sales continue to be strong, we have created better alignment with franchisees, and the Lee’s brand is outperforming many of our competitors,” Weaver says at the recent conference held at the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort. “In the last 12 months, we signed the largest franchise development agreement in the history of the company, had two new franchised locations open, and we are making improvements to our corporate infrastructure and newly acquired company stores. We are seeing continued success with on our best-in-class product, competitive menu pricing, customer service, and community involvement across our current 130 locations. With that information, we had reason to build on last year’s theme of ‘the future is famous’ by letting the operators, managers, and vendor partners who attended this year’s conference know that ‘the future is even more famous’ at Lee’s.”
Weaver goes on to say that the investment in corporate units were stores in Ohio, Florida, and Kentucky that were long-time, successful operators who were ready to retire and exit the system. He says these stores will continue to set the brand standard moving forward with planned investments in digital initiatives and re-imagined stores in the future.
Additional Lee’s Brand Conference headlines and recognitions awarded at the conference include:
- Recent consumer research revealed strong brand affinity among customers and that the brand is well positioned for growth.
- Concepts for future locations include a reimagined store design that focuses on the heritage of the brand infused with visuals and technology for today.
- Legacy Award
- The Cummins Family – Long-time 9-store Cincinnati market second generation operators. Awarded to the Cummins family in honor of operator Tom Cummins who passed away in 2021.
- Local Marketer of the Year
- Far Hills Development LLC – 13-store group in Dayton, OH – Chuck Doran and Ken Riddle
- Pace Setter Award
- HTL Inc. – The largest volume unit in the system in Richmond, VA – Henry Loving
- Rising Star Award
- Westermann Foods LLC – Fast-growing unit in Rock Hill, SC – Harris Mullis
- Operator of the Year
- Milby Inc. – Second-generation operator in Lebanon, KY experiencing exceptional growth – Lori Milby
Along with awards and recognitions, attendees heard from food service, design, and communications professionals who are part of the brand’s future that Weaver says is emboldened by better owner engagement, a growing support team, upgraded systems and tools, and customers who love the brand.