bannerFranchisee Spotlight

Former Landscape Entrepreneur Makes the Leap to QSR With Layne’s Franchise, Plans To Develop Across Arkansas

After selling his wildly successful landscaping business, Jake Willett was looking for his next opportunity and signed a deal with the chicken finger franchise to develop his entire state.

Jake Willett, the former owner of an incredibly successful Denver-based landscaping business, is taking a leap of faith. After selling his landscaping business to a private equity firm, Willett began looking for his next opportunity. Following the numbers, he decided to break into the quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry, signing a multi-unit deal with Layne’s Chicken Fingers*, the Soon to be Famous™ chicken finger franchise.

Willett will develop at least 10 Layne’s restaurants across the state and plans to make Layne’s the best regional brand in his market.

1851 Franchise spoke with Willett to learn more about his journey to franchising and plans for the future.


1851 Franchise: Frame your personal story for us. What did you do before franchising, and how did you decide franchising made sense for you?

Willett: Before Layne’s, I had a pretty large landscape maintenance business in Denver. I built it from the ground up, and it grew into one of the largest in the state pretty quickly. I had been confronted about selling it multiple times, and finally, it was the right time and circumstances.

I sold that in 2021 and stayed on with the private equity group that bought it for about a year. Over the last six months, I have been exploring different QSR options and ultimately worked with Layne’s to finalize our deal.

1851: What was your perception of franchising prior to becoming a franchisee, and what do you want people to know about franchising now that you are in it?

Willett: I have friends who have done it, and I know their stories. I knew I’d have to find an operating partner; he’ll be joining me. I knew, generally, what to expect, but never having been in the franchise or restaurant world, there’s a lot to learn. It has been a fantastic experience so far, but I know I have a long way to go.

1851: What made you pick this brand? What excites you most about this company?

Willett: I like the real estate piece. The fact that there is an entire real estate team who will help with site selection — that was the biggest thing for me. I felt like, if I did everything I was supposed to do, they weren’t going to let me fail with site selection. Having the team that they have in place, operationally, was another major factor for me.

1851: What do you hope to achieve with your business? What are your plans for growth? 

Willett: I’d like to exceed 10 units. We want to be the best regional brand in the area and be able to give back to the community. I look forward to going out and building another business.

1851: What is the one thing about your story you want us to know?

Willett: I didn’t come from the QSR industry or restaurants. I am just following the numbers. There is growth within the market and strong future demand. It really is an exploding market segment that’s got a lot of potential.


Founded in 1994 in College Station, the original location became a Texas A&M legend known for its small-town charm, friendly service, iconic chicken fingers and secret sauce. While opening corporate locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the leadership team focused on fine tuning its operations and starting to franchise. 

Franchise opportunities range from $545,000 to $1,190,000 with different buildout options available. Learn more about franchising here.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.