Lee’s Chicken History


Lee Cummings, the nephew of Colonel Harland Sanders, spent his childhood in the kitchen of his Henryville Indiana home. Lee hit the road with his Uncle Harland in 1952, selling their own special blend of spices along with their famous pressure cookers, which later became part of KFC’s “Secret Recipe”. In three years, Lee and the Colonel opened over 800 KFC stores. In 1962, the Colonel sold KFC to John Y. Brown.


After the sale of KFC, Lee Cummings started developing his recipe later to be known as “Famous Recipe.” In 1966, Lee along with Harold Omer started “Harold’s Take-Home” in Lima, Ohio where Lee first introduced Famous Recipe Chicken.


By 1967, Lee and Bob Burick in Springfield, Ohio opened the fifth franchise unit. Later that year, units followed in Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio as well as Kalamazoo, Michigan and Famous Recipe was on its way!


In 1972, Famous Recipe had 100 units! Bob Griffith joined Famous Recipe Chicken, now headquartered in Dayton Ohio, as General Manager. He helped many people open new Famous Recipe franchises, while buying the two stores in Springfield, Ohio. Bob and the Griffith family continued to open more stores in Springfield and New Carlisle, until Bob left Famous Recipe to run his own expanding franchise.


By 1979, the number of Famous Recipe units had doubled to 200 and in 1981, Lee Cummings sold the chain to Shoney’s Restaurants in Nashville, Tennessee. Shoney’s continued to operate Lee’s along with their own Captain D’s and Shoney’s Restaurants.


n 1980, the Griffith family, now including Bob’s son Scott and his wife Kim, opened or acquired stores in Tipp City, Troy, Urbana, and Sidney. The Griffith family franchise, named FRFC Springfield, Inc., operates from its New Carlisle office to this day.


In 1995, Shoney’s sold Lee’s Famous Recipe to RTM Restaurant Group in Atlanta, Georgia. RTM also owned Mrs. Winner’s Chicken and Biscuits, and tried to merge both Lee’s and Mrs. Winner’s in several southern states, attempting to leverage the best of both brands. In 1996 the chain celebrated it’s 30th Anniversary as part of RTM.


In 2000, the Griffith family opened a successful prototype Lee’s restaurant in Springfield, featuring new signage, modern design, and the same great Famous Recipe products. This store has served as a Certified Training Store for company and franchise team members.


In 2003 the Lee’s brand was sold to Famous Recipes, Inc. and headquartered in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Jeff Miller, new owner of Famous Recipes, Inc., bought the chain with the distinct vision of combining the great products of Lee’s with an economical and versatile building design that would promote easy entry into the chicken business.


In 2004, the Griffith family bought the Piqua Ohio Lee’s restaurant. The store has consistently improved in quality, service and sales. The Griffith Lee’s franchise has also served as a test market for many new products, such as salads, honey glazed ham, fried turkey, and BBQ ribs.


In 2005 the Griffith family remodeled the Sidney Ohio store, modeled after Lee’s Famous Recipes new vision for the franchise.


In 2006, the Lee’s chain celebrated its 40th Anniversary. Lee’s Famous Recipes purchased the Mrs. Winner’s chain. The company is merging the two brands, under the Famous Recipe name. New Lee’s restaurants opened in Brookville, Ohio, Newark Ohio, and New Castle, Indiana. The Griffiths remodeled two Springfield stores as well.


2007 was a year of growth. Two company-operated stores opened in Florida. The Griffiths remodeled the Piqua and New Carlisle restaurants. And in November 2007, the Griffiths opened their seventh store in Bellefontaine Ohio.


In 2008 Lee’s Catering business had substantial growth as families, churches and businesses found value in having Lee’s cater their weddings, parties and business events. The future is exceptionally exciting as Lee’s continues to grow!