CELEBRATION, Fla. - Eric Holm is an American success story, rising from being a restaurant busboy to becoming the largest Golden Corral franchisee in the United States.
“I started out as a busboy and my mom was a waitress at the original Sonny's BBQ in Gainesville, Florida,” Holm said, seated at a table in one of his restaurants. “We've been in business almost 25 years. We're the number one franchise in the nation. We have the best team in America. You call it rags to riches but it's not been a sprint, it's been a marathon.”
It's a marathon that's hit a rocky road, thanks to COVID-19. Holm had to close his 33 restaurants and lay-off 2,500 workers. Now he's had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“We're gonna be here a long time. Chapter 11 is a vehicle used for businesses to get back on their feet, and that's what we plan on doing.”
So far in Florida, the location in celebration is open for business -- with plenty of safety and hygiene upgrades. Holm said he plans to have six of them open by the end of October and ten of them open by the end of the year.
The coronavirus has also hurt Holm's philanthropic efforts. In the past, he's helped feed thousands of Salvation Army clients during the holidays.
“This year we won't be doing that,” he said, “not just because of our financial situation but because of COVID-19. We will have a much smaller way of delivering some meals.”
Holm said he hoped that would change for next year though, and that the giving spirit and good business will both come back.
“As soon as life comes back to normal, we'll be back to normal.”