Bush’s Chicken restaurants in Killeen change ownership

Herald/TJ MAXWELL - Employees of Bush’s Chicken on Lowes Boulevard in Killeen wait on customers Friday. The three restaurant locations in Killeen closed for a couple of days this week for training after a new owner took over operations.

By Colleen Flaherty

Killeen Daily Herald

Three of four Killeen Bush's Chicken locations are back in the Bush family.

Temple resident Corey Bush, whose father, Keith Bush, began the franchise in Waco in 1996, purchased the 38th Street, Lowes Boulevard and Willow Springs Road locations for an undisclosed sum from former owner Bill Barnes last month. The deal became effective Monday, when the locations closed through Wednesday for training.

The fourth Killeen location on W. Stan Schlueter Loop closed for good as a result of the deal.

Corey said Friday that he sold the location to a taqueria developer, in anticipation of opening a new Bush's chicken nearby on Clear Creek Road.

That location could be open as soon as January, he said.

Killeen's existing three locations will see better, more consistent

service and food quality now that they're back under the Bush wing, Corey said.

"I can't say they operated badly before, but I'm going to improve them," he said.

Corey owns one other Bush's chicken location, in Groesbeck. He said the move doesn't reflect any larger move to regain family ownership of Bush's.

Hammock Partners purchased Bush's Chicken in 2005 and moved the headquarters to Austin. There are dozens of Bush's Chicken locations throughout Texas owned by different franchisees.

The Harker Heights and Copperas Cove Bush's locations, owned by different parties, were unaffected by the recent sale.

While Killeen Bush's may improve as a result of the transaction, it didn't sit well with former employees. At least 45 lost their jobs May 29, when Barnes and Corey told managers of the change.

Corey said he offered all employees an opportunity to reapply with him, but he estimated Friday that only eight to 10 former employees had been rehired.

Longtime employees, including former W. Stan Schlueter Loop location manager Tim Thomas of Killeen, said the lack of notice they were awarded undermined their years of service and leaves them in a financial bind.

"This leaves me a very bad position," Thomas, a father of three, said. "This was my bread and butter."

Former 38th Street Bush's manager Sherry Lander of Killeen said she wished Barnes would have given employees enough time to look for other work before the change of ownership.

"I would have actually preferred a little bit of notice," she said. "I wouldn't have quit or anything, but even a week's notice helps you prepare a little bit more and put money back."

Neither Thomas nor Lander will reapply with Bush's, they said.

Thomas said he wouldn't feel comfortable re-entering the company in a position he used to oversee, while Lander said the new owner demonstrated a fundamental lack of respect for the employees.

Calls to Barnes were not returned this week.

Contact Colleen Flaherty at colleenf@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.

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