RULING THE ROOST: Red Rooster Lismore owner Stephen Russell is passionate about running his business in Lismore and is grateful for all the support following the flood.
RULING THE ROOST: Red Rooster Lismore owner Stephen Russell is passionate about running his business in Lismore and is grateful for all the support following the flood. Marc Stapelberg

How 40 years in fast food gave this man a successful career

FROM prepping chicken in a Red Rooster kitchen, to becoming three-time state manager and running one of the longest serving stores in Lismore, Stephen Russell's career has come full circle.

Tying on his apron as a casual kitchen hand at Brisbane's first Red Rooster store in Deagon 1979, Mr Russell had no idea he would wind-up having a flourishing career spanning nearly 40 years.

"It's been really great and fulfilling,” Mr Russell said

"I'm Brisbane born and bred, but I worked my way up to eventually become Queensland state manager and then took on the same role in the Northern Territory and Victoria.

"I was with the company for 25 years before making the move to Lennox Head 14 years ago to buy a business called Rooster World in Lismore.

"We converted it to Red Rooster and it ended up being the first franchise in NSW. I did own Red Rooster in Ballina as well, but sold it some years ago.”

Last year Mr Russell faced the biggest challenge in his life and career when the business "went under, literally,” in the Lismore flood.

But with the help and support of the local community and Red Rooster, they managed to open back up a week and a half later.

"When we first came in and saw the place I thought it was all over,” he said.

"There was mud a metre and a half high and it was over everything.”

"I was lucky to be part of a big organisation to help me get back on my feet so quickly.”

Mr Russell said other Red Rooster franchisees rallied behind him, sending him equipment at no charge, to make sure he could trade again as soon as possible.

A surfer boy at heart, Mr Russell is married with four kids and post flood, he has continued to give back to the Lismore community.

"I donate product to the the Lismore Soup Kitchen and to the volunteers of the lantern parade,” he said.

"It feels really good to give back, I think Lismore is a very giving kind of community, especially during the flood there was a lot of support.”

He spends quality time with his young staff, mentoring them, and believes that caring for his team is essential to business success.

"The secret is getting a good team around you ... and carefully choose who you hire.”

He said the number of staff he'd employed over the years was in the hundreds.

"I recommend getting into a franchise, just not another Red Rooster in Lismore,” he chuckled.

"I really love it and enjoy it - going from a big organisation with a lot of people under me to a small team is really good. I have a great team.”



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