Lewis Rudd is President and Co-Founder of Ezell’s Famous Chicken. After waiting six years for initial funding, the family opened the first Ezell’s Famous Chicken store on February 3, 1984 in Seattle's Central District. Since opening, Ezell’s was featured in Esquire Magazine as the Most Life-Changing Fried Chicken in America and has made many famous fans including Oprah Winfrey, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Quincy Jones, Norm from “Cheers”, Danny Glover, George Foreman and the Seattle Seahawks. Ezell's Famous Chicken has grown to 17 fast casual locations with more than 325 employees, and built a brand that is recognized nationally.
Rudd grew up in Marshall, Texas in a large family of ten siblings, with strong values. His first restaurant experience was as a teenager working three years for a local chicken chain, which sparked inspiration for Ezell’s Famous Chicken. An entrepreneur at heart, Rudd also owned and operated a photography studio as well as a talent agency developing and managing local talent.
In 1984, the dream of owning his own restaurant business became a reality. Rudd and his family saw their mission as simple: Provide fresh and high quality chicken and good homemade side dishes, served with fast and courteous service. Ezell’s makes their signature dishes from scratch, daily at each location. The family-owned and operated company had nine of the ten siblings working at Ezell’s over the years, three of the family founders are still active in day to day operations.
With Rudd’s leadership, Ezell’s evolved from fast food to fast casual dining, added a catering division, delivery, and continues to implement technology in key areas of the business. Ezell’s Famous Chicken is now a household name in Seattle and developed a loyal following throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Rudd is very active in the Seattle community supporting many organizations. In August 2021, Lewis and his brother Darnell Rudd, along with their sister Faye Stephens, introduced the Rudd’s R.U.B.B. (Raising Up Black Businesses) Initiative, a precedent-setting program designed to financially empower Black-owned businesses in the Pacific Northwest. The Rudd Family contributed $10,000 to start the fund. In partnership with food delivery service DoorDash, who donated $40,000 as a Charter Partner, Rudd’s R.U.B.B. offers no-strings-attached business grants to Black-owned businesses and organizations to help fund sustainability, operations, growth and success.
In its inaugural year, the R.U.B.B. Initiative received more than 540 total applications, giving away $2500 grants to each of 20 selected Black-owned businesses. R.U.B.B. is an ongoing program and currently exploring new ways to make long-term, direct support available to all applicants, in addition to other Black-owned businesses. For information and updates about the Rudd’s R.U.B.B. Initiative, visit the Ezell’s Famous Chicken Community page.
Additionally, Ezell’s supports various other causes and organizations, from supplying meals to front-line and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, to in-kind donations for school supply drives and fundraisers. Rudd also volunteers to provide motivational speeches to schools, and has supported high school incentive programs to increase GPAs. Rudd is on the University of Washington MBA board and currently serves as Vice President on the board for the Alopecia Support Group.
Rudd is the father of two daughters, a granddaughter and grandson. He spends most of his free time with his wife of 38 years and enjoys cycling, roller skating, and golfing.