Young Lee opened The Flame Broiler Restaurant in 1995, with the goal of providing his community with inexpensive, healthful food options. The inspiration stemmed from his own battle with illness, however, which he first noticed in 1984. He started developing sores and lesions across his body and suffered from nausea and flu-like symptoms as a result of eating badly at fast-food restaurants while working as a door-to-door insurance salesman.
“Numerous medical professionals were unable to provide a diagnosis,” he said in an interview with Fast Casual.
Lee knew he needed to take a break and focus on eating right and exercising regularly. Within weeks, he was fully cured.
“Because of my experience, I knew I wanted to make the community better and help others make more informed lifestyle and eating choices, which was my inspiration for The Flame Broiler,” he said about the 186-unit chain based in Santa Ana, California.
Lee knew others suffered from malnutrition as he had but - unlike him - lacked access to healthy food.
He began to give back by feeding the homeless and soon began to sponsor children in need. He’s committed to sponsoring two children per location, which means he’s already helped 338 children.
Fast Casual interviewed Lee to gain his unique perspective on healthy eating and franchising and how he’s transformed his passion into a thriving business.
Q: What advice do you have for other people wanting to open a concept or a franchise?
A:When considering franchising, make sure that what you’re launching aligns with your goals and that there is a real need in the marketplace for the concept. It’s a mistake to only think about the monetary element. Lead with a community over commerce approach, because your community is more important than any commercial value you will reap. Always put others ahead of yourself – and once that becomes your mission, you will truly began to see success.
Q: What is one thing you wish you would have done or known before opening?
A:Better knowledge of ingredients.
Q: How did you get funding?
A:The funding for The Flame Broiler came from selling the family dental lab and bringing in a general partner.
Q: What is your growth? (Annual sales or AUVs, etc.)
A:The Flame Broiler has continued to see growth since 2012 – with a 4.5 percent increase in systemwide sales from 2015 to 2016, with only eight new shops opening.
Q: What is the growth plan?
A: The Flame Broiler’s ultimate goal is to grow organically.