In Role as Entrepreneurs, NFL Players Specialize in a Familiar Fowl

The chicken business is booming. Determined to succeed in business, some football players hit their stride in a new formation -- with quality results

A model for success

Every would-be franchiser and former athlete would do well to familiarize themselves with the story of Junior Bridgeman. Shawntae Spencer has.

According to the St. Louis Business Journal, Bridgeman, who played 12 seasons in the NBA in the 70s and 80s, currently owns 196 Wendy’s franchises and over 120 Chili’s. His Louisville, Ky-based company, Manna Inc., has nearly 13,000 employees with holdings in Kentucky, Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, and Florida. In 2012, the company cleared over a half-billion in revenue.

In athlete business circles, Bridgeman’s is a story that inspires, even as he quietly builds his empire.

Spencer knows preparation and foresight was key to Bridgeman’s success, which is why he’s currently obsessed with McDonald’s foray into the chicken wing market.

“What does that do to the supply chain?” he shared recently. “That’s the elephant in the room because they eat up such a big supply.”

Ultimately, Spencer hopes that his cache as a former football player will help endear customers to his businesses, but Wingstop says the food comes first.

“I don’t know that we’ve dug deep,” into whether sports figures help drive consumers into Wingstop, said Lisa Spooner-Whyte, the brand’s senior marketing manager. “Ron Stone has been a partner for seven years. He participates and he comes to the conventions but he hasn’t necessarily used [his status] as a draw. Our food is what brings people in. It’s wonderful to be able to promote our little brand but by the same token, the brand partner that was an accountant or tools salesman still get local recommendations. And they’re based on the food and the service.”

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