Franchising Today - Winter 2017 - 64

LEE'S FAMOUS RECIPE CHICKEN

been successful in sales; our traffic is up year-over-year.
So not only are we gaining more dollar sales, but also
more customers every year."

Remodeling The nesT
Lee's is a mature brand at 51 years old, and that is the reason why the company has to constantly think outside of
the box when it comes to its products and restaurants.
With many of its restaurants built in the 1970s and
1980s, Lee's has begun remodeling its stores to adopt
a more modern look to cater to younger generations.
"We've seen a real trend in our product offering where
some of our stores are selling about a third of boneless
chicken and chicken tenders," Cooper says. "We're also
expanding into healthier foods with our fantastic oven
roast chicken, which comes with low carb sides."
Lee's has also integrated technology into its operations. "We want to serve our customers faster, so we've
implemented technology like a point-of-sale system,"
Cooper says.

Ultimately, Lee's wanted to make its stores more efficient in the most cost effective way. "We've worked with
some equipment partners to utilize equipment that will
work in the same footprint so we don't have to build bigger buildings," Cooper says. "This way our franchisees
won't have to invest more money, and can still grow
their sales."
Although Lee's makes a lot of its own products - such as
tea, biscuits, sauces and spices - the company has strong
relationships with many of its vendors, or partners, as it
likes to call them.
"Our stores get fresh chicken daily, so we have very few
products that are taken out of boxes and put into a fryer,
which is very different from our competition," Cooper
notes. "We have fantastic partners like C.H. Gunther,
George's Chicken, Case Farms and Ken's Sauces."
He notes the company has been able to maintain these
longstanding relationships through trust and honesty,
which has contributed to Lee's success. "We try to stay
with the same vendors because it's continuity," Cooper
says. "Partner is a good word for them."
No matter the market Lee's operates in, when it comes
to competition, the company is very confident because of
its partnerships, he adds. "We're always on our game and
can compete with the best, including KFC, Popeye's and
Church's Chicken," Cooper says.

someThing gReaT
As Lee's looks ahead, its goal is to help keep its franchisees successful. "That's where we live," Cooper says, noting that the company also needs to figure out how to continue building stores more efficiently. "How are we going
to help owners when they want to remodel, and how do
we make that as cost effective as possible," he says.
The next "big idea" for Lee's is also on the horizon as
the company is currently developing innovative concepts to differentiate itself further from its competition.
"We're considering working with some of our franchisees on a breast strip-only concept," Cooper says. "We're
also looking into developing a smaller, cost-effective
concept that can operate inside a strip mall. We're going
to take, what I call, the sweet spots of what we do well and
concentrate on those."
Ultimately, the sky is the limit for Lee's after 51 successful years. "We operate in both rural and urban areas,"
he says. "Looking ahead, you might see Lee's in more areas like convenience stores. I think we'll be able to provide c-stores across the country something great."
64

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WINTER 2017


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