The Original Just Turkey Restaurant: Chicago’s Homegrown Black Owned Franchise

Business, Community Off 449
Brian Morton (left) and Greg Morton (right). Owners of the Original Just Turkey Restaurant franchise.
Brian Morton (left) and Greg Morton (right). Owners of the Original Just Turkey Restaurant franchise. 

The year 2008 is marred with continuing a prolific real estate crisis and a profound economic decline. Census data shows Illinois experienced a 32% increase in the percentage of residents living in poverty starting at 10.7% in the year 2000 and increasing to 14.1% in 2010. However, the year 2008 birthed a dream in the minds of Chicagoland natives Brian Morton and Gregory Morton.

The two brothers, frustrated with the limited non-pork and non-beef alternatives to the outmoded chicken mealtime, conceived a new meal idea for Chicago’s South Side. In 2010, the Morton brothers opened the doors in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood to the first Original Just Turkey Restaurant. The Original Just Turkey Restaurant offers a delicious joint high protein and low fat meal. The menu includes the very popular Just Turkey Tips.

The franchise is the self-proclaimed originator of turkey tips. Along with a diverse menu of dinner items including turkey burgers, turkey tacos, turkey lasagna, hearty turkey salads and much more, the Original Just Turkey Restaurant serves desserts and other side items. Its Bronzeville location supports a number of Black vendors like Jimmy Jamm Sweet Potato Pies, which is a delicious desert choice.

Bringing the Original Just Turkey Restaurant from conception to reality was no easy feat. The first restaurant opened with self-funding of less than half typically required. Nonetheless, Greg explained that he and Brian were fearless and confident because they found a demand in their community and properly positioned themselves to meet it.

The restaurant was profitable from the first day its doors opened in Kenwood and the success continues. Today, the Original Just Turkey Restaurant has three locations in Chicago, IL, another that borders Chicago in Evanston, IL and a forth just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Greg Morton explained that capital for expansion was difficult but the difficulties were overcome. Today, the

Original Just Turkey Restaurant is growing its franchise and accepting new franchisees. Looking forward, the Morton’s have in store a massive “Just Turkey 2.0” model. This model adapts the franchise design and mission to a broadening customer base throughout the city and throughout America. Greg explained, “Just Turkey is not fast-food. It is more like quick-serve cooked with love.” The Morton brothers are also launching a food product line targeting schools and senior homes.

The food line will offer joint high protein and low fat food choices for healthier diets and fitness. Moving ahead Greg said, “We [The Original Just Turkey Restaurant franchise] will continue to expand by adapting to the marketplace, meeting the needs of customers and staying true to our mission of providing good and healthy food cooked with love.”

When asked about Black business in Chicago Greg elaborated, “In order for Blacks to rise we have to create economic structure. We [African Americans] are one of very few people that give people a second chance. Black businesses are the biggest Second Chance Employers out here. That is just one major reason…to support Black business.”

Second Chance Employers are companies that are willing to hire or that have hired individuals with a criminal history. Morton also explained, “…it is important to teach the next generation about business by example…it is important to discuss ownership… and doing well in school not just to work but too own.”

The Original Just Turkey Restaurant is a model Black business originated on the South Side of Chicago by Chicagoland residents. It is the dream of two brothers to provide for their community in spite of humble resources. The brothers now employ their community and provide healthy food sources within a dearth of such sources. The franchise is one major piece in a growing tapestry of Black entrepreneurs building economic structure for a stronger Black economic community. You can find out more about the Original Just Turkey Restaurant franchise at www.OriginalJustTurkey.com. Also, please visit any one of the locations in the Chicagoland or Atlanta area.

About the author / 

Violin Vizigodz

Violin Vizigodz is a Chicago native. Born and raised on the South Side, she has a passion for the community. Violin holds a B.S. in Chemistry and a second B.S. in Biology from Chicago State University where she graduated valedictorian. She is currently completing her final year of legal education at Chicago Kent College of Law.

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