Winner, winner, chicken dinner is back: After an absence of a year and a half, popular chicken chain Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken is returning to Lexington.
“Lee’s is coming back to Lexington and we’re excited about being back in the market,” confirmed Chuck Cooper, Lee’s president and CEO, this week.
Founded in 1955 in Ohio, Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken has 130 restaurants. Although the company made its name on bone-in fried chicken, the big sellers these days, Cooper said, are boneless products.
“We sell a lot of hand-breaded fresh tenders. Never-frozen, hand-breaded chicken tenders are leading the way. And all our great sides, such as mac and cheese, and our pot pies,” Cooper said. “What we’ve tried to do is keep all the recipes pretty much the same.”
Lexington had three Lee’s restaurants that all closed without warning in November 2019. Employees showed up to work at one location found signs on the doors that said “closed for renovation.”
Now, Cooper said, two of the three locations will be reopening under new franchisees.
Chuck and Mindy Newnham, who will operate the Lexington stores, also have Lee’s in Richmond, Monticello and Corbin.
Work is beginning first at Lee’s at 3014 Richmond Rd., which is expected to open in the next three to six months. The location at 1487 Boardwalk is expected to reopen by the end of the year.
The Lee’s that was a 1318 Versailles Rd. is still in flux, said Chuck Newnham. Speedway is considering the location, but if that deal falls through then Lee’s could return, he said. Or they might look for another Lexington spot, possibly along Nicholasville Road.
Both the Richmond Road and Boardwalk will be getting new double drive-thrus with improved digital ordering systems, Newnham said. The buildings will be redone inside with all new equipment. He said they also anticipating doing larger catering orders.
“I think it’s going to be great,” Newnham said. “I went to school at UK and I’m just very proud and humbled to actually have a restaurant in Lexington. … I really want to get involved with Kroger Field, give out a lot of chicken wings, and we’ll have a little catering van running around everywhere.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, drive-thrus have become key for the success of many restaurants and Lee’s has seen business boom. In February, Lee’s was named to Franchise Direct’s Top 100 Global Franchises for the first time.