Clinton Lewis started working at KFC in Spanish Harlem at the age of 16. He began as a fast-food cook, but after a year, Alvin Borrows, a man he would always respect, promoted him to shift manager after taking him under his wing.
His big break came when his hard work and ethical ideals allowed him to turn around a chaotic day. He had no idea Scott Waters, KFC’s regional director at the time, was going to stroll into the restaurant 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 shared with Afrotech.
“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 acknowledgment and kindness really stood out for me, and that made me want to stay with the company.”
Lewis went on to work for KFC for eight years as an area manager, increasing the number of outlets in New York from 12 to 20. In Baltimore, the 44-year-old now controls three franchises. He also serves on the board of the KFC Foundation.
Lewis has also spent 12 years as the director of operations for KEDIS Enterprises. According to Franchising.com, the 32-unit, multi-brand franchise company employs over 600 people and generates more than $50 million in yearly sales. Lewis frequently guarantees that KEDIS Enterprises stores maintain more than 98% passing rates on brand standards evaluations while cutting operational expenses and increasing profit margins.
The entrepreneur also broke down boundaries to become the only non-franchisee nominated for the P.E.T.E. Awards (People Encouraging Talent and Excellence) in 2012 and 2022.
Lewis noted that, while a lack of cash was an issue at first, the corporation recognized Lewis’s promise and partnered with him to assist him get the funding needed to launch a franchise.
He discussed his aspirations to grow and reinvest in his neighborhood. “Reinvesting in the community means opening more locations in the Baltimore area, which will, of course, provide jobs and motivate people,” he explained.
“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,” he added.