Experience: 1975 - present, McDonalds.
Family: Wife, Jennifer. Children; Rob (42), Michael (40), Nicolas (24) and Caitlyn (22).
After opening his first McDonald's in Arkansas City in 1975, Lane has built a robust family business — Lane Enterprises — that includes 40 franchises in Kansas and nearly two dozen in the Wichita area.
The Wichita Business Journal recently visited with Lane to talk about the history of Lane Enterprises, the King of Rock 'n' Roll and an issue that has plagued numerous businesses in the Midwest in recent years.
How did you get into the restaurant franchising business? The story is sort of interesting, actually…. Back in 1974, I was a ditch digger, basically — I worked on a curb-and-gutter construction crew in Chicago. I ended up in Las Vegas one February because we were laid off because of the weather. I happened to meet these two guys at an Elvis Presley show. One of them was a doctor, and I didn’t think I could do that, and the other guy had two McDonald’s in Grand Junction, Colo. We started talking about McDonald’s and what a good company it was, especially for young people… which I qualified for since I was only 26 then. So I went back to Chicago and contacted the headquarters and asked them to send me an application. I filled it out and three to four weeks later, I received a letter that said, “Thanks for your interest, but no thanks.” So I called them and asked what was wrong with my application and they told me. So I corrected it and sent it back again. I received the same letter back. So after the fifth time of repeating this cycle, I think they got tired of hearing from me. They called me in for an interview. I must of been impressive enough that they offered me an opportunity. Back then, McDonald’s was building around 500 restaurants a year, so they needed people to become franchisees. They had a program, because I didn’t have enough money, either, that would help people get started. One of the questions was, “Where do you want to go?” and I said “Anywhere.” And that’s exactly where they sent me… Arkansas City, Kan. And the rest is history, as they say.
How has business been lately? Business has been interesting, especially in Wichita, because it’s the same population numbers as when I moved here in 1975. We haven’t really grown. For whatever the reason, Wichita has always been sort of a hot bed for anybody that has a new idea to try it out here, especially in the restaurant business. Probably because it’s the middle of the country and they figure they’ll get a good read for demographics.… So we have a lot of competition. The density and variation of competition here is pretty extreme. It’s an interesting market all the time. So you have to have your A-game on as much as possible.
What has changed over the years in the business? Wow — lots of things. When I got into the business, we didn’t have drive-throughs.… Now we have dual lane drive-throughs. We didn’t have much a menu regarding breakfast, either … in ’75 we had Egg McMuffins and scrambled eggs, sausage with hotcakes. That was the total breakfast menu. So overtime, our menu has gained more variety. Back in the late '50s/early '60s, someone asked Ray Kroc, who started McDonald’s, “What are you going to be selling in the year 2000?” and he said that he didn’t know, but he was darn sure he was going to sell more of it than anyone else. So that’s sort of who we are and where we’ve been.