How these two entrepreneurs made history as the owners of 32 Bojangles franchises

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 26, 2024 8:01 AM EDT

The fast-food restaurant industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. Its market size increased to $382 billion in 2022 from $322.05 billion the previous year. Quick, cheap, and satisfying, the fast-food restaurants offer convenience, affordability and predictability over a memorable dining experience. The industry is now universally associated with American culture, with millions of people holding a devotion for their favorite chains. The growing fast food restaurant market presents a special opportunity for entrepreneurs hoping to turn a reasonable profit.

In a history-making endeavor, top music executives Mel Carter and Kevin “Coach K” Lee tapped into the growth potential of the fast food restaurant industry. The two became the owners of 32 different Bojangles restaurants in 2022, becoming the largest Black-controlled franchisee in Bojangles’ history. 

It has always been Carter’s dream to become the owner of a major restaurant franchise. He immigrated from Trinidad and Tobago at 12 and grew up in Brooklyn where he worked several jobs to help his family make ends meet. By age 20, Carter was working in the music business and was on the way to establishing himself as one of the top executives in the industry. He served as the SVP of A&R for Republic Records and established Second Estate Records, a record label that has worked with industry powerhouses like Warner Music.

“Immigrating from Trinidad and Tobago, it was always my dream to be an owner of a major restaurant franchise. Being the largest black owner of a QSR Franchise alongside Coach K at an establishment as great as Bojangles brings me great honor and I am deeply blessed,” Carter explained what being a Bojangles franchisee means to him.

Carter was always curious about what it would take to own a franchise whenever he went to McDonald’s. He was shocked to realize that he required at least a million dollars before beginning the franchising process. His interest in the industry was further buttressed by his investment in John Seymour and Nas’ restaurant Sweet Chick. Their success and how they ran the business inspired him to get into the Bojangles space.

Alongside his business partner, Lee, founder of hip hop record label Quality Control, Carter started working on making his franchising dream a reality. The two formed Melanbo, a franchise group and signed a development agreement with Bojangles. Under the deal, the ownership group would develop 14 new locations in Greater Atlanta, building upon their acquisition of 18 existing Bojangles restaurants in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It made Carter and Lee the largest Black-controlled franchisees in Bojangles’ history and the 5th largest ever.

“I’m proud to do this with Mel and to keep pushing forward Black entrepreneurship. We built our way up in music and it’s exciting to branch out in so many ways and to join forces with the #1 Black-owned franchise,” Lee said about the historic acquisition deal.

Founded in 1977, Bojangles specializes in Cajun-seasoned fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits. The company has over 800 locations, primarily serves the Southeastern United States, and generates over $500 million in annual revenue.