"Great locations will offset everything else," says the Texan, who has 16 McAlister's deli locations open, with plans to add two dozen more by 2015 as he expands beyond his base in Texas and New Mexico. Lee first ate in a McAlister's at one of his San Antonio shopping centers. "No matter how great your marketing is, you can't market your way out of a bad location," he says.
Lee says his learning curve as he entered franchising was relatively easy. "Franchising was a little new, but I knew about the real estate, of course, and the financing requirements. Dealing with a franchisor was a little different but that's gone well, too," he says.
His winning approach led him to sign on with McAlister's for development rights in half of Texas and all of New Mexico, Idaho, and Utah. "We're up to 16 restaurants with four more under construction," he says. "Our future growth will create approximately 1,200 jobs throughout these local communities and give us an opportunity to bring McAlister's great food and genuine hospitality to more locations."
Lee, who McAlister's Franchisee of the Year for the past 3 years, likes the restaurant business so much that he also became a franchisee for Wings 'N More Express. He's also become a partner on the franchisor side with Zio's Italian Kitchen and Don Pablo's.
His charitable and community involvement includes serving as board president for the Permian Basin Rehabilitation Center for children in Odessa, Tex. "He's been vital to bringing the center to where we are today because of his giving, his willingness to go into the community and get donations," says Permian's Executive Director Risse Rogers. "He epitomizes the definition of philanthropist because he gives and gives, never wanting anything in return. He simply wants to make a difference."