In becoming the owner of three KFC stores, Clinton Lewis achieved a long-held dream.
At the age of 16, Lewis could be seen working at the KFC in Spanish Harlem, NY. His motivation stemmed from his humble beginnings, having been raised by his mother, Shirley Lewis, who had 10 children. His grandfather and grandmother, Norman and Iris Lewis, had worked relentlessly to help the family move from Belize to the United States. By 1989, Lewis’ family had successful made it.
“We came to this country when I was about 10, 11 years old,” Lewis told AfroTech in an interview. “My grandfather and grandmother worked really hard to bring us over here to this country. We ended up in Harlem, New York. The crime and drugs was very high back then. There were a lot of young kids getting caught up in a lot of mischief, which led to imprisonment or far worse, but the work ethics — which my grandfather instilled in us — kept me on a straight arrow. Also seeing how hard my working mother, as a single mom, took take care of us.”
Lewis did not intend on taking for granted the sacrifices of his family. He worked an entry-level position as a cook at the fast-food chain, and within one year, Lewis was promoted to shift manager by Alvin Borrows, a man he will forever hold in high regards.
“He took me under his wing and saw my hard work and positive mindset. He took a liking to that,” Lewis said.
The Decision To Remain With KFC
You don’t always find that your first job will become your second home light years ahead. Yet, this is the case for Lewis, who is 44.
He came to that realization while leading a busy shift, with a few callouts as a junior shift manager. What could have been a chaotic day was instead met with a constant flow of products and satisfied customers.
This didn’t escape the attention of KFC Regional Director Scott Waters when he walked into the store that day.
“I was able to put some people in place making sure we had product available, work well as a team, and coordinate, and continue to make the line move and customers happy,” Lewis explained. “Customers didn’t notice that we were short-staffed. And who popped in was the regional director at that time, and he was so inspired by the way I handled my shift and how I communicated so well with my team members that he recognized me and said, ‘Clinton, you’re doing such a great job. You know what? I would just like to recognize you. And here goes $100 as a token of appreciation, just for all that you’re doing.’ That acknowledgement and kindness really stood out for me, and that made me want to stay with the company. “
Interest In Becoming A Franchisee
Lewis would scale his involvements in the company just one year later, becoming a general manager with KFC from 1999 to 2003. It was during this time period that he grew his knowledge of the business and learned how to increase company profit. During this season, he felt emboldened to own a KFC franchise in the future.
“I started to more understand the business in terms of the sales we generate, the profits and the inner workings of the KFC brand. Then I said to myself, ‘Someday I can see myself owning a few of these’ and that has always been my goal since then,” he expressed.
A Dream Come True
His desire would manifest in 2023. Today, Lewis is a proud owner of three KFC stores in Baltimore, MD.
This follows after serving eight years as an area manager for KFC, where he expanded the operational restaurants across New York from 12 to 20. In 2011 he then became director of operations for KEDIS Enterprises, a multi-brand franchise organization that has maintained an annual revenue of over $50 million.
“It means the world to have my dreams and my goals come true,” Lewis told AfroTech. “To be the first person in my family to have a franchise, to see the hard work of what my grandfather and grandmother struggled for come to fruition. It means the world because I know this is what they would’ve wanted for me.”
Reaching the milestone presented its challenges. Yet, when Lewis was looking to put pen to action in 2022, he felt supported by KFC to carry forward.
“Of course the challenge was the capital, but all that I’ve done within the brand, my network, and my leadership, the brand was able to see my potential and work alongside with me and enable me to get that capital needed to become a franchisee,” Lewis expressed.
Looking ahead, Lewis sees great opportunity to reinvest back into the neighboring communities of the storefronts.
“Reinvesting in the community is by opening more locations in the Baltimore area, which will of course provide jobs, get people motivated,” he detailed. “Having our KFC foundation, having team members have access to those educational programs that the KFC Foundation provides, things like that to get them working and working toward their goal.”