Two KFC restaurants closed in Columbia County last week, and a third is doing the same.
“It was the toughest decision I ever made in my life,” franchisee Billy Wingate said. “It really hurts.”
The restaurants at 215 Furys Ferry Road in Martinez and 4088 Jimmie Dyess Parkway off Interstate 20 closed Feb. 10, and Wingate will shut his final restaurant at 898 Horizon South Parkway in Grovetown within two weeks, after the remaining food has been sold.
Wingate said the closings were caused by increased labor and food costs.
“It was just impossible to make any money,” he said.
About 75 employees will lose their jobs, Wingate said.
“It’s hard to go in there and tell someone you have to close down the store,” said Wingate, who opened his first area Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1988 in Barnwell, S.C. “It’s hard for me to talk about.”
There are parties interested in purchasing the properties, Wingate said.
The family-operated franchise company closed its KFC restaurant on Washington Road near the Evans Wal-Mart in May after it had been open for about three years.
That restaurant had difficult access into the parking lot. Wingate purchased the property thinking a traffic light would be installed in front of Chimney Hill and Country Place subdivisions nearby, he said.
In late 2010, Wingate sold his former Columbia Road KFC to the owners of a Zaxby’s franchise.
There are nine other KFCs across Augusta, North Augusta, Aiken, Waynesboro, Ga., and Wrens, Ga., according to KFC’s Web site.