Houston native Royce Ballard has accomplished a lot in his 32 years including becoming the youngest African American Chick-fil-A owner in the nation when he was awarded his first restaurant in 2008. In 2011 he moved to a soon-to-open location at 12161 Southwest Fwy in Stafford (at 59 & West Airport) which became the top Drive-Thru Only location in the nation and is expected to remain in the top 3 in the nation this year.
In January of this year, he opened a second franchise location at 6840 W Sam Houston Parkway South in Houston (at Beltway 8 and Bellaire) making him the youngest multi-unit Chick-fil-A owner in the nation.
On the surface when you glimpse his million-watt smile and calm and youthful demeanor, you would never know that his road to success was paved with tragedy and personal loss.
In early 2000, four days shy of boarding a plane and heading to the University of Miami on a full academic scholarship, Ballard’s younger brother was killed in an accident with an oncoming 18-wheeler while running from the police.
“Because I was leaving for college, I also thought that it was going to be my last day at Chick-fil-A,” said Ballard who began working at the national restaurant chain as a teenager in high school.
But the tragic turn of events would lead Ballard to stay home to be near his family and attend the University of Houston. He also would make a pivotal decision to keep his job at Chick-fil-A.
In his freshman year, the owner of the Sugar Land-area Chick-fil-A where he was employed, took notice of his strong work ethic and determination and encouraged him to consider franchise ownership.
“She told me that to accomplish that goal, I would have to finish my degree, continue learning the ins and outs of the business and formally apply when the time was right,” shared Ballard.
In 2008, a few months before he was awarded his first franchise, Ballard’s mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and died a little over a year later at the age of 57 after a 15-month long battle. Four years later in 2012, he would lose his father to a heart attack and stroke resulting from renal failure.
Ballard credits a great support system of friends and family along with his Chick-fil-A family for helping him navigate through the tough times.
“I tried to keep a level head at all times and know that the things that were happening in life were out of my control and the world did not stop because I was going through them,” said Ballard.
His unwavering persistence and positive outlook in the face of tragedy coupled with a dogged determination has paved the way to his present success.
“I am extremely competitive,” said Ballard, who also credits his success to the hard working team of employees he has been able to hire.
“Chick-fil-A is heavily people-based. Relationships are key in what we do. The product is unmatched and we have many fans. Also, there is no ceiling on what individuals or teams can accomplish within the organization.”
Looking back, he points to his father, a Houston-area attorney, for encouraging him to consider entrepreneurship as a path.
“My dad always said that my goal should be to eventually own my own business and work for myself,” shared Ballard.
Ballard has done just that and is blazing a trail of success as owner of two Chick-fil-A restaurants.
His first restaurant is the only Chick-fil-A franchise to win the national restaurant chain’s Champions Club award three years in a row – an accomplishment that brings Ballard great pride.
“I would have never dreamed that I would be where I am career-wise at this stage in life,” said Ballard.
The enterprising business owner was awarded a second location based on his success in achieving a 16 percent sales increase at his initial location and maintaining exceptional profitability metrics that placed his restaurant in the top 50 in volume out of nearly 2000 Chick-fil-A restaurants in the span of only a few years.
“Only roughly 10 percent or so of Chick-fil-A operators have more than one location,” said Ballard.
He values the work ethic his father instilled in him and the many Chick-fil-A franchise owners who paved the way and shared their insights and knowledge.
“I am honored that Chick-fil-A awarded me my first franchise as a 24 year old in 2008. A lot of people believed in me and took me under their wing along the way,” said Ballard.
His goals for the future include owning a third location.
“Chick-fil-A is very good about rewarding young people with amazing opportunities if they have what it takes. I have a never-ending entrepreneurial desire to grow, so I am always looking for new ways to grow and expand the business,” said the UH business management grad.
He encourages others to pursue their dreams and carve out their own unique path.
“Believe in yourself and put in your best effort into anything that you do, whether that is school, work, relationships, etc. A lot of my success happened because I tried to be the best minimum wage worker that I could be back in 2001 and I continued to maintain that philosophy,” said Ballard.
In the meantime, he is doing his part to give back to the community and recently aligned with the Chick-fil-A at 59 & Little York to co-sponsor the launch of Dance Party Fitness Houston, a national fitness movement to inspire families to join together to get fit and adopt healthy lifestyles.
Interesting Things to Know About Royce
Favorite Movie: Any type of horror movie; I love the Saw series.
Favorite Food: Mexican food
Favorite Sports Teams: Houston Rockets and UH Cougars
Top Travel Destination: Las Vegas, Nevada
Person Who Has Had the Greatest Impact on Your Life: Mom, Dad and brother RIP
What You Like to Do In Your Downtime: Watch sports.
Houston Chick-fil-A owner achieves success in the face of tragedy