Lion’s Choice sold to chain’s first franchisee

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - A St. Louis institution, the Lion’s Choice Roast Beef chain, has been sold.  But while the words “corporate sale” often makes people nervously think of cuts and relocations, the new ownership says that’s not going to happen here.  You can just ask the new boss, who will often be in one of the stores.

The deal comes as the founder of the chain, Dr. Marvin Gibbs, retires.  The man heading up the new ownership group, Mark Disper, bought Gibbs’ first franchise store back in 2000.  While he’s been out of the Lion’s Choice company for a few years, he says he couldn’t resist coming back.

“Great employees is why I came back in the company and working with everybody to take it to the next level, to take the company to the next level,” Disper said.  And what is the next level?  “We’re gonna expand here in the St. Louis market first.”

He’s planning on adding between fifteen and twenty new Lion’s Choice locations around St. Louis in the next couple of years.

Disper is a lifelong fan of the restaurant, dating back to his days at Lafayette High School.

“We were hanging out at the Lion’s Choice in high school.  That was our favorite place to eatand it still is.”

Now he’s followed the line from the old commercial:  “He liked it so much he bought the company.”  He says when he made the deal he knew he had a call to make.

“I called my father to let him know.  He’s a big Lion’s Choice fan also.”

But as he takes the helm, there’s a message for his dad.  It’s another well used line:  “No free lunches.”

“I’m not gonna give him any freebies.  I’ll eat lunch with him once in a while.”  But asked if Dad’s really got to pay, Disper said, “You bet he does.”

Some have complained over the years that prices at Lion’s Choice are a little steep compared to other fast food chains. But Disper says between quality of food and service, he’s got the best deal in town.  So the prices won’t be changing.   Neither, he says, will the food.

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