Great Midwest KFC Franchisee Association
by Kevin Schlutz
The Upper Midwest KFC Franchisee Association was first formed in 1974, at an organizational meeting of franchisees in Chicago. The first regional association was formed in the Southeast in 1965, and as more organizational meetings were held, more regions came into being. Also in 1974, the AKFCF, an umbrella organization of the regions was formed, to provide communication and support between the regions.
The Upper Midwest is composed of parts of 9 different states. It includes all of Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, the northern two thirds of Illinois, and franchisees with restaurants in NW Indiana and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan which belong to advertising co-ops in the region. Membership is annual and dues are comprised of a set amount for the franchisee and then so much per restaurant.
The region normally has three meetings per year, one at the national convention, a spring meeting focused on Restaurant General Manager development, and a fall annual meeting for the franchisees and their families. Initially, the fall meetings were always held at the Thunderbird Hotel, next to Memorial Stadium in Bloomington Minnesota. After many years, that hotel just wasn’t big enough and the fall meeting was moved to the Radisson South just a few miles west for the next 10 years. Since then we have become much more adventurous, traveling to Tucson, Cancun, the Chicago Lakefront, Phoenix three times, Huntington Beach, Palm Springs, Redondo Beach, Marco Island, San Antonio and Albuquerque. This coming fall meeting will be in Marco Island. Initially, the spring meetings moved around the region from place to place, allowing everyone to visit other parts of the region. Some of the ones I remember were in Cable Wisconsin, Omaha, Peoria, Lincoln, Brainerd, Dubuque, Milwaukee, Des Moines, Madison, Cedar Rapids, and the Chicago suburbs. Then we went a few years without official spring meetings, doing training meetings at various sites around the region, and then it was decided, based on the success of other regions, to have a big Spring RGM Rally in Las Vegas, and those have continued and have been very successful. In 2009, because the launch of new Kentucky Grilled Chicken fell on our meeting dates, instead of having the meeting in Vegas, there were various Rallys held around the region to prepare for the launch. In 2010 and 2011, the meeting was in Vegas in conjunction with the Southwest region. In 2012, the spring meeting is going to be held back in the region at a resort in the Wisconsin Dells.
The Upper Midwest region was the first to partner with another region for a fall regional meeting. In 2007, we partnered with the Southwest region and had both joint activities and separate business meetings. Everyone was very happy with the results. So happy in fact, that in 2008, we partnered with both the Southwest and the Great Lakes for our fall meeting. This is a great treat for our vendor partners, who saved time and money by not having other separate fall meetings to attend, but also for KFCC, and it made for a better meeting, with more activities and better discussions for the franchisees. We expect to partner from now on with at least the SW region, if not both, and we believe this will become the future of fall meetings, to consolidate into Super Regional meetings for better results.
The Upper Midwest region also was the first to host an international region at one of their meetings. In 1994, as the new Canadian Franchisee Association was getting started, we offered to have them join us at our fall meeting in Minneapolis. We had a good turnout of 50 Canadians join us where we had both joint activities and separate business meetings.
The Upper Midwest has produced many individuals who have had national involvement. Seven AKFCF Presidents have come from the region: Don Nicolson, Joe Zimmerman, Bob Schlutz, Bill Allen, Kevin Schlutz, Chuck Weaver and Dale Black. Peggy Kimball also served as the AKFCF Secretary for a short time. Our AKFCF counsel for many years, Andy Selden, hales from Minneapolis, as does our AKFCF convention planner, Deborah Callahan. Bill Allen, after hosting the first franchisee sponsored national convention, served many years as the Convention Planner Emeritus. Michelle Hunt serves as Editor of the AKFCF Quarterly magazine, and maintains our website. Kevin Schlutz is the current AKFCF Secretary.
Many Upper Midwest franchisees served or have continued to serve many years on various national committees. They included Don DeLaria, Joe Zimmerman, Don Nicolson, Dick Harrigan, Les Davis, Bob Schlutz, KenMonroe, Bob Thorstenson, Bill Allen, Pete Wasilevich, Kevin Schlutz, Dale Black, Brian Johnson, Mike Bartlett, Peter Helf, Eric Carlisle, Mike Kohlman, Noah Hommerding, Justin Stewart and Terry Moffit. Four of the first fifteen franchisees still active in the KFC system are from the Upper Midwest. They are Joan Christenson, Don DeLaria, Rocky Rasmussen, and Chester Jewula. Our current national representatives include: Brian Johnson and Pete Wasilevich, NCAC, Dale Black, KFC-NPC/UFPC, and Bryan Robinson and Dave Kerr, OEC. Gene Duenow, Government Affairs, Michelle Hunt, AKFCF Quarterly Editor and Kevin Schlutz, AKFCF Secretary. Our Past Presidents of the region include John St.Martin, Bill Morrow, Stan Rothenspirger, Darren Taylor, Dale Black, Don Nicolson, Don DeLaria, Bob Schlutz, (twice) Bob Cutchall, Bill Allen, Joe Zimmerman, Kevin Schlutz, Ken Monroe, Bob Williams, Gary Hopfenspirger, Chuck Weaver, Mike Bartlett, Mike Kohlman, Justin Stewart and currently Noah Hommerding.
Many of our members have retired or sold out, and we also honor the memory of some of our long-time members who have passed away: KenMonroe, Don & Peggy Kimball, Lyle King, Willis Warner, John Grassi, Don Nicolson, Bill Ragen, Tom Lowry Sr., Bernie Roebbeke, Ted Theodoroff, Watland and Bob Williams.
This year marks our 38th Anniversary as a regional association, and we anticipate many more.
Region past presidents