Management rejuvenates brand, started by entrepreneur Jack Massey who bought KFC from Colonel Sanders
Throughout the southeastern U.S., Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits’ familiar red-and-white box is a Southern tradition. For legions of loyal customers, it evokes memories of perfectly seasoned home-style fried chicken, made-from-scratch biscuits, and hot frosted cinnamon swirls.
Founded in 1979 — by Jack C. Massey, a QSR empire builder who purchased KFC from Colonel Sanders and grew KFC to 3,500 locations — within five years, Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits grew into a 184-store chain.
“Mrs. Winner’s has a large and passionate customer base,” said President John E. Buttolph, the Minneapolis entrepreneur who since 2012 has led the turnaround team in strengthening the franchising platform. “The brand seemed to disappear for awhile because its corporate parent had too many liabilities on the eve of a downturn and wasn’t able to nurture the Mrs. Winner’s brand.”
The company subsequently changed ownership during several transactions, combining Mrs. Winner’s under management of other restaurant brands. In 1989, a year before Massey’s death, Mrs. Winner’s was acquired by RTM, Inc., Arby’s largest franchisee. Then in 2006, Lee’s Famous Recipe, Inc. purchased Mrs. Winner’s in a highly leveraged transaction. When the recession hit, the chain closed its remaining company-owned stores and eventually filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving only a handful of franchisee-owned locations.
“I don’t like the expression ‘lean and mean,’ but we are ‘lean,'” said Buttolph, who understands the experience some QSR franchisees of competing brands have endured, with many corporate layers and a tendency to micromanage franchise operators. “Our team has spent two years rebuilding the infrastructure in order to support our franchisees in a way that leaves them free to focus on running their stores.
The brand is now 12 stores: three in Georgia, (Decatur, Macon and Stockbridge); one in Alabama (Birmingham); seven in North Carolina (three in Greensboro, two in Highpoint, and one each in Kernersville and Jamestown); and one company-owned store in Tennessee (Cleveland).
Buttolph is seeking motivated entrepreneurs with QSR management experience to apply for franchises in select markets: Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia – the core market where Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits brand is widely known and loved.
“We’ve performed market analyses on the offerings of other QSRs in our niche,” Buttolph said. “And we are confident that qualified entrepreneurs evaluating franchise opportunities will like what Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits has to offer.”
John Buttolph was born in Georgia in 1952 and grew up in New York and Missouri. He graduated from Amherst College in 1975 with a degree in American Studies, and received his JD from the University of Oregon Law School in 1981. After practicing business and commercial law in Santa Barbara and Newport Beach for 30 years, Mr. Buttolph acquired Mrs. Winner’s in 2012. He and his wife Jeannie reside in Minnesota where they enjoy boating, cross-country skiing and family.
Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits is a regional fast food restaurant chain in the southeastern U.S. Its distinctive menu includes home-style fried chicken, chicken strips, its famous biscuits, a selection of hearty side items, and a robust breakfast menu. For information about current store locations and franchise opportunities, visit lovemrswinners.com.