How Ashley Lamothe became the youngest franchise owner in Chick-fil-A history

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 10, 2024 2:09 PM EDT

All Ashley Lamothe wanted when she was 15 years old was to earn enough money to buy her first car. She began working as a team member at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in her hometown of Atlanta to reach her goal. She liked the job so much that she continued working at the fast food franchise during her time at Spelman College. But at only 26, Lamothe became the youngest franchise owner in Chick-fil-A history.

Her history-making run began with a simple conversation.

Despite working in franchising, Lamothe did not consider a career in the industry. She was pursuing a degree in theatre and becoming a business owner was the furthest thing on her mind. After her store operator and mentor approached her about her long-term goals and encouraged her to explore her potential in leadership, Lamothe shifted her focus. She switched her major to economics and embarked on her entrepreneurial journey.

Lamothe spent the next three years following her graduation completing numerous Chick-fil-A management and development programs. When it was time to apply for the restaurant that she was interested in, she already had a lot of experience. Chick-fil-A is known for being highly selective about who it allows to hold franchising rights with only four percent of 20,000 inquiries from franchisee candidates making the cut. The company chooses dedicated leaders who align with their values and mission, and in return, pays for all startup costs, including real estate, restaurant construction, and equipment. In addition, to her hands-on restaurant experience, Lamothe’s willingness to enter a new and emerging market set her apart from other applicants.

“The differentiator for me was that I had hands-on restaurant experience, and I was willing to go into a market that was new and emerging. I grew up working for Chick-fil-A when I was in high school and all throughout college. When it came time to apply for the restaurant I was interested in, I already had a lot of experience. I was also able to articulate how I could come into the business and help elevate the brand in LA,” Lamothe explained how she became Chick-fil-A’s youngest franchise owner.

In 2011, at only age 26, Lamothe became the youngest franchise owner in Chick-fil-A history. The University of California location that she was selected for was the first Chick-fil-A restaurant in Los Angeles. Although the brand was a household name in many cities across the US, it had little to no name recognition in the Los Angeles community. To create brand awareness and interest, Lamothe devised a marketing plan where she fed people for free. She worked with local organizations and institutions to offer their catering services and had her team distribute samples on the streets. Soon, people were coming in on their own.

A credit to her hard work ethic and impact, Lamothe opened her second location in downtown Los Angeles six years later. She employs 85 team members in whom she invested. She was passionate about whether they aspire to grow within Chick-fil-A or pursue other careers in fields like law or medicine. Just like others have supported her, Lamothe continues to help her team members to achieve their dreams.

“I want to help them get to where they want to go, whether it’s a career with Chick-fil-A, or studying law or medicine, or anything. I want to help them make that next step, just like so many have done for me,” Lamothe said about how she is inspiring the next generation.