Magazine article Black Enterprise

A Whopper of a Deal: C.H. James & Co. Expands Burger King Franchise

Magazine article Black Enterprise

A Whopper of a Deal: C.H. James & Co. Expands Burger King Franchise

Article excerpt

Charles H. "Chuck" James III continues to reposition his family-owned company into the quick service restaurant business. Exclusively a Burger King franchisee, James has opened a new store in Chicago and acquired four more in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Deerfield, Illinois-James Restaurant Holdings on the BE INDUSTRIAL/ SERVICE 100 list with $57.7 million in revenues) now operates 48 Burger Kings and plans to open two additional stores this year.

The company is an affiliate of 125-year-old C. H. James & Co., which was founded in Charleston, West Virginia, as a local distributor of fresh produce. As that parent company's fourth-generation CEO, James has driven its evolution from distributing food to restaurants, to manufacturing food for restaurants, and--since 2004--to owning restaurants. C. H. James & Co. still has food distribution contracts for Darden Restaurants, but the vast majority of its efforts are now in the quick service restaurant business. By adapting to the changing times, the company has been able to survive and thrive.

"People talk all the time about how Wal-Mart has wiped out Main Street. What they don't talk about is Wal-Mart also wiped out Main Street's suppliers," James says. "My family business was predicated on supplying room-and-pop grocery stores and restaurants. As those businesses slowly died off and the kids did not go back into them, we really didn't have a market anymore. We literally had to shift our market to stay in business."

Profits in the distribution business are typically 1% or 2%, while his restaurants can achieve pretax margins above 10%, James says. …

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