It is my dad, Milton Hunt, that is the driving force behind S&D Spicy Kitchens,” said his son, Matt Hunt. “Milton came from very humble beginnings, dropped out of high school to join the Navy and held a variety of odd jobs before landing at KFC in 1968 as an assistant manager. Milton worked his way up the corporate chicken ladder and by 1978 was a district manager overseeing 100 KFC Corporate stores.” 

About this time Al Copeland began expanding Popeyes and recruiting management from KFC. Copeland decided to become a franchisee too and was searching for operating partners. He offered Milton a choice of stores in Houston, the Hunts’ hometown, or stores in Hammond and Houma, Louisiana. Milton opted for the smaller towns, a five restaurant package deal. 

“I was ten years old when my dad became a franchisee in 1978,” remembered Hunt. “Hammond and Houma were two hours apart and the quickest way to get from one to the other included taking a ferry boat. Now they’ve improved the bridge system across the Mississippi River and it doesn’t take so long.” 

Rick Howell met Milton in 1975 when he worked for him at KFC. Milton recruited Howell right at the start to help him run the Houma restaurant. For a company not big on titles, Howell is best known as “the right hand man,” first for Milton and now for Matt. He is a major key to the company’s success. 

“Milton took a chance on me and I can never repay him for the opportunity he gave me and the kindness he’s shown me,” said Howell. “I couldn’t ask for a better guy to work for. Milton is always fair, honest, loyal, trustworthy, and never carries a grudge. He has a smart business savvy. Milton is my friend as much as he is my boss.” 

As operating partner, Milton worked hand-in-hand with Howell building, opening, and operating the franchise’s first six stores. The days were long; 12- to 15-hours was the norm. After the addition of a 7th store in 1988, the company added another supervisor to carry some of the load and lighten their burden. 

“We built them, and they came,” recalled Howell of those early years. “When they were here, we took care of them.” 

“People came from all over to look at our operations. The chain was only about five years old and Milton was a leader in getting the chain up and going. He made a personal commitment to Popeyes and he was instrumental in getting many other franchisees involved in the system.” 

Right at New Orleans’ backdoor, Al always asked Milton to test new products in the stores. “We were the first to use the Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) idea back in 1984,” continued Howell. “We tested red beans, biscuits, and mashed potatoes to name just a few.” Store #2098 in Hammond was the first to serve breakfast and still offers it today. 

Matt spent summers as a teen seasoning chicken, stocking shelves, and cleaning stores. “I have fond memories of dad sitting in our living room at the typewriter making out checks. It wasn’t long before my mom, Shirley, jumped in to help and developed the company’s new and improved accounting system. My parents ran the business out of our house with two employees coming in during the day to work. In the late ‘80s they moved into rented office space.” 

“Shirley was very open and committed to the success of this company,” said Howell, “and her contributions to setting up a working office operation are invaluable and cannot be overlooked.” 

After graduating from LSU with a degree in business management in 1990, Matt returned home to Hammond to run the company’s Ponchatoula restaurant. “My dad didn’t create a position for me. I had to work for it!” 

By now Milton had opened and was operating eight Popeyes when Al approached him about Church’s franchising. The Hunt family currently operates seven Church’s under the name Hunt Enterprises. 

Their fried chicken growth slowed as the Hunts’ focus shifted to trying out other concepts Al was introducing, including Wrap and Roll and Wholly Mackerel. 

“Through it all, we realized that frying chicken is what we knew and did best,” said Hunt. And through it all, the company scraped and rebuilt older buildings and even offset a couple. 


The latest Popeyes addition was an 11th store in Hammond, their third restaurant in that market. Nine of S&D Spicy Kitchens’ Popeyes are in the New Orleans DMA; the other two fall in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette DMAs. They have 3 Church’s in the Monroe market, one each in Hammond, Thibodaux, Ruston, and El Dorado, Arkansas. When Al passed away, his estate sold their interest in the franchise to Milton, and Matt is now his partner.

A stellar operator, Milton won several Silver Plates and a Gold Plate in the early years. In 2004, Milton was recognized as the Church’s Devleoper of the Year. In 2007, Popeyes awarded the organization its Operator of the Year award. 

“Rick and I attended that Convention but left a little early so we could catch an early plane and get some work in,” explained Hunt. “We were at the airport when our name was announced. I’m pretty sure that because of this incident, we can take credit for the Awards Lunch being moved from the end of Convention to the first thing on the agenda opening day.” 

Hunt acknowledges they are lucky to have stores in a couple university markets which they heavily support by sponsoring baseball, basketball, and football teams. Their markets have benefitted from an influx in population following Katrina also. Offering a catering menu has increased sales, especially to local schools, and half of their restaurants still serve breakfast. 

He gives full credit to his management staff for sales growth and the company’s success. Area Supervisors Missy Folse and Vurtis Gibson have worked for the company since they were teenagers. Tracy Woods has been promoted to area supervisor when the second store in Thibodaux opened in September of 2018.  A new store in Gray opened in November of 2019.  GM tenures range from 10 to 20 years, and more. Kim Martin, office manager, has over 15 years. 

“Through the years, Milton has always stressed to treat your managers and crew fairly and with respect,” Hunt said. “Keep the building and equipment well-maintained. When you do all this, the managers and crew will take care of the guest.” 

Milton passed away in August of 2012. His legacy continues as Matt and Rick run the company with the values and policies that Milton instilled. Shirley is still active in the office.  

In May of 2014, the Hunts sold the Church’s Chicken restaurants.  The move was made to reduce travel time and to focus on Popeyes.  Many relationships were built with people in the Church’s system, and we cherish those, and wish them continued success.
 
       
 
 
Phone: (985) 542-4780 
Fax: (985) 542-4892 
Email: guestservice@sd-kitchens.com


 

 
  

 
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