LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A once popular restaurant chain that dwindled to just one location in the state is making a comeback.
The owner of the Minute Man Restaurant of El Dorado has partnered with Matchbox Food Group founder and Arkansas native Perry J. Smith to revive the legendary brand. Initial plans call for opening three locations in the Little Rock and Conway areas.
Minute Man was a pioneering fast-casual restaurant founded in Little Rock by entrepreneur Wesley (Wes) Hall. The original Minute Man location opened at 407 Broadway on May 26, 1948. At the height of its operations, the company had 57 company-owned and franchised locations throughout Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana.
Linda McGoogan has been an owner-operator of Minute Man, El Dorado since 1984.
“We’ve been around so long our customers call us the ‘The Last Minute Man Standing,'” she says in a news release issued Wednesday.
McGoogan is assisted in the restaurant by her husband Paul and son Brent, making it a true family enterprise.
“We’re still doing great and customers line up when we get ready to open every day,” she says.
May 26, 2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Minute Man chain.
In her career, McGoogan has fed a large number of dignitaries such as Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, past U.S. Senators from Arkansas as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton. With no plans yet to retire, she’s excited “to get Minute Man up and running again.” She adds, “People ask me every day if Minute Man can open in Little Rock or wherever. I tell ’em just stay tuned-that’s our plan!”
Smith is a career restaurateur who’s been a huge fan of Minute Man since he was a child.
“My earliest restaurant experience was at a Minute Man on Cantrell Road in Little Rock. I think I was about 7 years old. McDonald’s had opened down the street and all the kids were pestering their parents to take them for hamburgers. My dad said ‘No, but I’m going to take you to an Arkansas restaurant to get a real charcoal grilled hamburger and fries. I was hooked.”
Smith is the founder of the multi-unit restaurant company Matchbox Food Group with locations in California, Maryland, Florida, Virginia, DC and Texas. After selling his shares in the restaurants, Smith founded The Avalon Institute a business and leadership development firm. In addition, during his frequent travels to Arkansas, he began researching the history of Minute Man and driving to El Dorado to eat at the restaurant. Reports Smith, “The food, burgers and fries were fantastic, just like I remember growing up.”
Over the years, Smith and McGoogan’s relationship grew, with Smith providing informal guidance in management, operations, quality control and branding. In June of 2018, they formalized their partnership by way of a new entity Minute Man, AR Management with the sole focus of bringing it back.
Says Smith, “Minute Man is an Arkansas heritage brand and beloved restaurant, and folks are so excited about the possibility of it coming back. Early on and to gauge people’s interest, we started a Facebook page called Minute Man Memories and now have over 700 followers. Folks are jumping on daily and having discussions about what they ate, what they remember and their fondest experiences at the restaurant. Overall, the main thing I hear is that Minute Man is the ‘right brand for our time’ which makes me feel great about the possibilities for a comeback.”
Says Smith “Since we partnered, I have been working in the restaurant with Ms. Linda, meeting customers, setting up systems, developing relationships with the trades and building a motivated team.” He adds, “But mainly, I have been listening to people’s thoughts on what a 21st century Minute Man needs to look, feel and taste like. So many folks love this idea and we have to get it right.” He concludes, ‘But with 70 years of history on our side, a healthy dose of nostalgia and of course a great charcoal grilled burger, I am confident this will be a huge success!”
Minute Man, AR Management is the operating arm for Minute Man Restaurants. The Avalon Institute is a business development, leadership and coaching firm founded on the principle of Roundtable Leadership where individuals learn to effecively collaborate in order to grow, tackle complex challenges and thrive in their endeavors.