What It Takes: Michael Melton featured in the Washington Post

Michael E. Melton was raised in the projects in Kansas City, Mo., by a single mother, but he decided early on that he would not become a statistic. A part-time job cleaning a lab at the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration in high school exposed him to science and engineering. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering, then went to law school. While practicing patent and intellectual property law, he invested in a chain of fast-food restaurants.

Thirteen years later, he is a partner in Norris & Melton, a Pennsylvania Avenue NW law firm, and co-owner of 20 Taco Bell and five Five Guys restaurants in the Atlanta area. MEM Enterprises, of which he is founder and CEO, employs 710 workers, and grossed $24.7 million last year. Melton, 51, has served three years as president of 100 Black Men of Greater Washington D.C., which mentored 11,000 young people last year, part of his effort to show young people from backgrounds similar to his that they can succeed.

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Michael E. Melton: The Blueprint of an Entrepreneur

Michael E. Melton is quite the success story. He’s a Patent Attorney, Electrical Engineer, Entrepreneur, Sports Agent, Philanthropist, Author, and Motivational Speaker. Those are just his titles. His business portfolio is also impressive.

Through his Smyrna, Georgia based company Michael E. Melton Enterprises (MEM), Michael owns and manages numerous business ventures. His investment properties include 20 Taco Bell’s, 5 Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and several Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in metro Atlanta. Michael anticipates adding four more Five Guy restaurants to his Atlanta portfolio soon. There’s more, Michael is the Principal and Founding Director of Merit Bank in Overland Park, Kansas.

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Rainbow PUSH Rev Jesse Jackson Seek Economic Reciprocity with KFC

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is urging food service giant YUM! Brands to pay closer attention to diversity and inclusion.

According to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s International Trade Bureau, there are 106 Black-owned Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) stores, out of more than 5200, while Blacks and Hispanics account for nearly one-third of the company’s U.S. revenues.

“YUM! needs to do a better job of making sure that its franchisees look like its customers,” said Randolyn Jones, director for the Southern Region of Rainbow PUSH’s trade bureau in Atlanta, Ga.

Yum! Brands, Inc. is a Fortune 500 corporation which operates Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, A&W and Long John Silver’s restaurants worldwide.

Minority franchisees claim that they have difficulty communicating with the company and that operating terms and conditions are inconsistent. They also said that the company refuses to hire and promote Black executives who understand the unique market conditions affecting their businesses.

“We have a vested interest in YUM!,” said Rainbow PUSH president and Founder Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Breadbasket, which Jackson started as a wing of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), initiated the very first Black franchise operations in the United States.

“Some of today’s minority franchisees are the same ones we worked with a generation ago. Others are children of that first generation. We do not intend to see their demise, given the strong consumer base that KFC has in our communities. We would rather have trading partners than boycott targets,” Jackson said.

“So, we have written to and seek to meet with YUM! officials. But we cannot tolerate being taken advantage of as consumers, [and] treated as second class citizens when it comes to business opportunities and jobs.”

Jackson said that he has corresponded with YUM! and KFC executives. He intends to help organize a minority franchise owners association and plans to attend the YUM! annual shareholders meeting in May in Lexington, Ky.

Jackson and Janice L. Mathis, executive director of Rainbow Push met with a group of Black YUM! franchisees who asked Jackson for help recently in Atlanta, Ga. The group also sent a letter to YUM! Chairman David Novak and requested an emergency meeting to discuss their concerns.

“Franchisees came from all over the country to participate in the meeting,” Mathis said.

“During the meeting we developed a set of goals to be presented to KFC, but in fairness to YUM! and in accord with RPC protocol, we are giving YUM! a reasonable amount of time to respond before the issues are made public,” she said.

“We are able to identify only 106 Black-owned KFC stores, out of more than 5200. The earlier report of 2900 stores was inaccurate. We are also conducting in-depth research on YUM! including Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. We expect further developments by the middle of next week,” Mathis said.

Michael E. Melton, president of 100 Black Men of D.C. and the owner of 20 Taco Bells, five Five Guys and two Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants which are pending, said that he will throw his weight behind Rainbow Push’s efforts.

“I fully support this action. I have been in negotiations to purchase several Kentucky Fried Chicken [restaurants]. All of which are in urban areas in Atlanta. KFC has been extremely difficult to work with. Wanting to shift all the risk and expense to me while also demanding enormous front expense to remodel the stores before they can reopen,” Melton said.

Melton said that the racism is subtle. White operators do not want the older stores in urban areas. Blacks tend to take those stores and then management makes it difficult and expensive to operate.

“When it became generally known that I was seeking to purchase KFC locations, I started receiving calls from existing operators warning me of the mine field that I was entering. The best way to bring the negative practices to light is to openly stand together and protest. I support Jesse Jackson in this effort and I will join the new minority franchise owners group,” he said.

“Franchise groups serve a need in our communities, business ownership opportunities, jobs at all age levels and food at a low to reasonable price point. The opportunity to participate should be implemented fairly,” Melton said. WI

Story By The Washington Informer

How I Did It: Jerry Murrell, Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Along with his sons, Jerry Murrell of Five Guys Burgers and Fries built a 570-store chain that enjoys a cult following.

Sell a really good, juicy burger on a fresh bun. Make perfect French fries. Don’t cut corners. That’s been the business plan since Jerry Murrell and his sons opened their first burger joint in 1986. When they began selling franchises in 2002, the family had just five stores in northern Virginia. Today, there are 570 stores across the U.S. and Canada, with 2009 sales of $483 million. Overseeing the opening of about four new restaurants a week, the Murrells are proof that flipping burgers doesn’t have to be a dead-end job.

There was this little hamburger place where I grew up in northern Michigan. Almost everyone in our town, except the uppity uppities, ate the burgers. Even though the owner had a cat, which he’d pet while cooking. People called them fur burgers, but they still ate them because they were good.

I studied economics at the University of Michigan. I had no money and needed a place to stay, so I ran a fraternity house’s kitchen. I got the cook a raise and let her do the ordering. We started making money, because she knew what she was doing.

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