Restaurant owner celebrates 45 years in business

Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken is celebrating the franchise’s 50th anniversary this year, and a Springfield family has been a key part of the company’s success almost from the beginning.

Lee’s has been a major part of Scott Griffith’s life since his father bought two restaurants in Springfield in 1972, just a few years after the restaurant began to expand. The chain first opened in Lima, Ohio in 1966 as Harold’s Take Home Restaurant, and quickly developed a devoted following.

Griffith began working at his dad’s stores while he was still in high school. It’s where he met his wife Kim, who started her career working in the Griffith’s home office. Since then, the couple have weathered recessions, Kim opened a catering business and their restaurants now serve as a training center for new potential franchise owners interested in the business. Scott and Kim own 7 stores in four counties, and employ about 175 workers.

Many of their employees have also worked for the couple for more than a decade.

“We couldn’t do this without people who have been in this business for a long time,” Scott Griffith said. “We’re so thankful that they continue to work with us and represent us.”

The industry has seen numerous changes in the past few decades, but the most significant is how competitive it’s become, Scott Griffith said. Families today have more options than ever, so it’s important to constantly focus on what their customers want.

“Customers are savvy and they’re also a lot more connected,” Scott Griffith said. “One thing that hasn’t changed is if you have a good product and you do it well you’re going to get your share and that’s been our focus.”

When the recession hit, the pair placed more emphasis on their catering business to weather a dip in store sales. That side of their business now caters about 200 weddings a year, he said.

Nationally, Lees has 135 locations in 12 states in the U.S. To celebrate its anniversary the company is encouraging guests to visit its Facebook and Twitter pages through Wednesday, July 6, for a chance to win gift certificates from $5 to $40.

“We’re just thankful that we found Famous Recipe and we’ve been here this long,” Griffith said.

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