The entrepreneurs are seeing double-digit year-over-year sales increases in recent months (the privately held company does not release sales figures); overall employment has risen from about 230 to 250; much-needed renovations and technology upgrades are underway inside and outside the restaurants; a catering manager was hired to accommodate rising demand; and the company’s business plan calls for opening a new Lee’s Famous Recipe location in 2017.
“That should be the start of an expansion,” Riddle said.
Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken was founded in 1966 in Lima, Ohio, by Lee Cummings, the nephew of KFC founder Col. Harlan Sanders. The company is now headquartered in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and has more than 140 locations in the U.S. In its heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lee’s operated nearly two dozen restaurants in the Dayton area. That number fell by nearly half by 2014, but Riddle and Doran say they have no plans to close any existing locations.
The Lee’s restaurants are boosting sales in part because they offer comfort food that never goes out of fashion, Riddle said. Americans are busier than ever, and they’re searching for convenient take-home and quick-service meals to replace the comfort meals they don’t have time to make in their own kitchens, he said.
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