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Flame Broiler Eyes Expansion Under New Generation

Founder's Sons Add App, New Drive-Thrus

Santa Ana’s Flame Broiler, which ranked No. 22 on the Business Journal’s 2022 list of locally based restaurant chains with $84.7 million in systemwide sales, has cemented itself as a family-run business.

Daniel Lee and Christian Lee, sons of the fast-casual chain’s founder Young Lee, have added new exec roles at the Korean-inspired rice bowl chain, which counts about 165 locations, with a majority of them in California.

Christian Lee was recently named the company’s chief operating officer, and Daniel Lee has stepped in as chief technology and marketing officer.

Family Ties

Christian Lee said one of his first memories of the business, founded 28 years ago, was watching his father cook the restaurant’s house-made “magic sauce” at a young age. When the siblings entered high school, the Lees began learning every part of the restaurant from cleaning and cooking to management.

The Lee brothers would go on to be franchise operators of a location in Santa Ana next to its headquarters while attending the University of Southern California business school. They were both still involved with the company’s broader operations as well as later occupying roles on the technology team, marketing department and other operations.

Christian, the younger of the brothers, noted that his tech-savvy brother had actually built the first Flame Broiler website in his dorm room at USC. The older Lee said that multiple iterations of the site were also created for various coffee shops across Los Angeles.

Both brothers noted their current day-to-day responsibilities wouldn’t change but their official titles will help solidify an official Flame Broiler leadership team, since the company introduced a suite of directors last year.

“We would like to add more to that leadership and continue elevating them,” Christian Lee told the Business Journal. “Having a strong leadership team sets up the company for better growth.”

The company’s website indicates it is looking to open franchises in Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The initial investment required to establish a franchised restaurant ranges from $390,439 to $638,502.

App Launch

Flame Broiler recently announced the launch of its new mobile app.

The brothers said they are aiming to replicate the in-store experience as much as possible through the digital device and its rewards program.

More personal communications and marketing are on the way through the loyalty program. There will also be attempts to engage and connect with the brand outside of the store while leaning more into social media as well.

Other plans for the restaurant concept include testing new store models and moving away from limited seating and indoor malls. The brothers pointed to renovations and construction of brand-new drive-thrus in California with larger dining spaces.

There’s also a double drive-thru location being built in Florida to start the introduction of takeout-only formats in the future.

These locations “are going to be looking different than what you’d expect,” Christian Lee said.

The brothers also shared that the company plans on launching more limited-time menu items in the near future after recently adding charbroiled wings to the menu for a short time last December.

“We’re learning what our guests are responding to,” they said.

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