Chris Newcomb is the co-founder and CEO of Newk’s Eatery. Based in Jackson, Miss., Newk’s Eatery is a high volume, culinary-driven, fast casual restaurant brand with 120+ locations in 16 States.
Chris’ 28-year career began in one of the most unassuming ways. While he was attending the University of Mississippi in Oxford, a “Hollywood” production came to town to film the movie The Heart of Dixie, which featured an old gas station that was converted into a 1950’s diner and hangout. After production wrapped on the movie, Chris’ father bought the property. The family opened it as a restaurant named “Checquers” in 1989.
Within the first year it had become a successful business, which was a great accomplishment since neither of the gentlemen had prior experience in the restaurant industry. Shortly thereafter, in order to avoid confusion with the existing Checkers restaurant chain, they changed the name to McAlister’s Gourmet Deli, which was the last name of Chris’ grandparents.
It was at that time that Chris began to view the restaurant business as a career and not as a hobby. He began to invest more time researching and studying the foodservice industry. In 1991, Chris opened a second McAlister’s Gourmet Deli in Hattiesburg, Miss. From there, Chris opened a McAlister’s Deli in Tupelo and Jackson, Miss., and across the southeast. During his career with McAlister’s Deli, Chris was instrumental in numerous aspects of the development, from operations and design to purchasing and equipment.
In 2001, after selling his portion of McAlister’s Deli, Chris left to become a Moe’s Southwest Grill franchisee. He eventually opened four Moe’s Southwest Grill restaurants and served on the Moe’s Southwest Grill Advisory Board. During this time, Chris learned what it meant to be a franchisee, and focused on his passion of creating the food he loves in the kitchen.
He applied his decade of deep entrepreneurial knowledge to create his next concept, which would be something of a namesake. Newk’s Eatery was launched in 2004 in Oxford, Miss. with Chris as president and CEO. Since that time, Newk’s Eatery has grown to 120+ restaurants in 16 states.
In 2014, Newk’s Cares, the philanthropic arm of Newk’s Eatery, was established. Chris and his wife, Lori, co-founded Newk’s Cares after she was diagnosed in 2013 with Stage IIIc ovarian cancer. The Newk’s Cares mission is to create awareness of the signs and symptoms of this devastating disease. In addition to generating great awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, in six years Newk’s Cares has raised more than $1.4 million for Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) in an effort to fund research that will one day lead to a cure for ovarian cancer. During the month of September, Newk’s Eatery’s iconic black cups turn teal in support of ovarian cancer awareness. The restaurant has also permanently replaced their traditional red straws with teal straws and donates 10 cents from every Newk’s Cares-themed bottled water sold to OCRA. Newk’s Cares and Newk’s Eatery host the annual Ovarian Cycle® Jackson spin event, held in their home base of Jackson, Miss. every September. An annual “Lunch & Learn” event in partnership with St. Dominic Hospital is also held in Jackson to raise awareness and support of ovarian cancer prevention and treatment. In 2018, Lori helped establish a partnership between OCRA and St. Dominic Hospital to introduce the “Woman to Woman” program to cancer patients in the surrounding Jackson area. While Lori lost her physical battle to ovarian cancer on February 28, 2019, her mission to help all women and all future women affected by the disease will continue to live on.
Chris currently sits on the Board of Newk’s Eatery, Restaurant Finance Leadership Conference, The Meridian at Lakeland (a real estate investment company), and Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. Chris has served on the Board of McAlister’s Deli and YPO Southern 7. He is an active member in YPO Southern 7 and the Fast Casual Industry Council. During Chris’ career he has received numerous industry awards and recognitions such as the “Top 40 Under 40,” Nation’s Restaurant News “Power List,” the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association’s Silver Plate award, and Mississippi Business Journal “CEO Awards of Mississippi, 2018 Class.”
Chris currently resides in Jackson, Miss. He has three children, Madison (25), Blair (23) and Hayes (20).