Famous Recipe Group LLC has agreed to seel its 130-unit quick-service fried chicken chain Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken to a subsidiary of Artemis Lane Partners, the Shalimar, Fla.-based franchise company said Thursday. It also named a new CEO, Ryan Weaver, who is a former principal for private equity at Apollo Global Management and partners in Artemis Lane with Sam Kaplan and Kyle Tucker, who he also worked with at Apollo.
The subsidiary, LFR Chicken LLC, plans to provide capital to expand the chain, which is why Lee’s Famous CEO Chuck Cooper decided to sell the brand, according to a release announcing the deal.
He said that quick-service operations now require more investment, enhanced data collection and more efficient processes to support franchisees than they have in the past. He indicated that the new LFR might also open company-owned units. The release also said the new owner ship would “provide an opportunity for maturing restaurant owners to have a solid exit strategy in place.”
“We fell in love with Lee’s from the second we met Chuck, tried the product, and started learning about the brand and the strong heritage franchisees, owners, operators, and team members helped build.” Weaver said in a statement. “Our ultimate goal is to grow Lee's to be a billion-dollar brand and introduce it to a lot more cities and states across the country – we really think the sky is the limit for Lee’s.”
The release said Artemis Lane Partners, which was established last year, is looking “to provide flexible and patient capital to great businesses with substantial reinvestment opportunities.” It quoted Weaver as saying the group’s strategy “allows us to own great businesses for the long-haul without any pressure to sell them after a fixed number of years.”
It added, “Artemis Lane has experience with franchisor-franchisee relationships through its ownership as a large franchisee in another brand ecosystem,” without providing further details.
Lee’s said that it has weathered the pandemic well, with sales in 2020 up by 12% compared to 2019 and that year-to-date sales for 2021 are up by 16%.
Weaver says Lee’s is known for its hand-crafted, fresh, never frozen, hand-breaded, honey-dipped, pressure cooked chicken, and is the perfect platform from which to grow a brand that will continue to be differentiated by taste. He adds, "New technology, new processes, and new investment can be applied to this already solid platform in order to scale the business even further."
Outgoing CEO Cooper said Artemis Lane is "a best-in-class partner that shares our values of transparency and excellence" and that it has expertise in smooth acquisitions and empowering people.
“We look forward to Artemis Lane enhancing the support for our restaurant owners and continuing to grow the system while maintaining the wonderful experience our brand has offered guests for more than 55 years,” he added.
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