OpenCity’s CEO, Nick Belsito “Breaks Bread” with Lewis Rudd, CEO of Ezell’s Famous Chicken, as they discuss Ezell’s incredible growth over the past 35 years, their transition from fast food to fast casual dining, the challenges of labor, and the ways they are implementing technology. Today, Ezell’s Famous Kitchen is ranked as one of the best soul food restaurants in America, feeding the people of Seattle for over 35 years.
In 1984, Ezell’s began as a grab-and-go concept. However, over the years, they thought about ways to transition to a fast-casual dining concept. The idea to transition was initiated by a realization that at its heart, Ezell’s had a fast-casual concept disguised as a fast-food restaurant with regards to their packaging and presentation. They baked fresh daily, peeled fresh potatoes, defatted the chicken, and marinated it all from scratch. All they had to do was change their marketing and presentation strategy.
With Seattle being one of the first cities to increase minimum wage, Ezell’s struggled with labor issues. The minimum wage hike had a profound impact on the hierarchy of the employees, the rising cost of labor, and their entire business model which looked to provide high school students with their first job.
With over 35 years of experience, Lewis is excited about the future growth of the restaurant with the implementation of a new social media and marketing team. They’re not relying on new customers to define who they are as a brand. They have established their place in Seattle and plan to stay there for a very long time. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Ezell’s Famous Chicken!
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About Ezell’s Famous Chicken
Ezell’s Famous Chicken was started over 30 years ago as a family-owned and operated business.
The story began when the family moved from Texas to Seattle. Shortly thereafter they decided that they’d start a business making chicken like they used to back home in Texas.
Lewis and the family saw their mission as simple: Provide FRESH and high quality chicken and GOOD homemade side dishes, served with FAST and courteous service. In short, Ezell’s Famous Chicken had to be Fresh, Good and Fast!
After waiting six years for funding, the family opened the first store on February 3, 1984 in Seattle’s Central District at 501–23rd Avenue, across from Garfield High School. Since then, they have built the family business into a national franchise.
Since the very beginning, the founders of Ezell’s Famous Chicken knew they had a product that the public would love. Their recipes called for using high quality ingredients and preparing everything fresh daily. All they had to do was get customers to “just try it once,” and they would return for more.
Ezell’s Famous Chicken has become a household name in Seattle and developed a loyal following throughout the Pacific Northwest. Today, there are several locations, a dedicated catering division and two mobile food trucks to serve the growing customer base.