US General Construction

As the leading general contractor for restaurant chains in the Southeast, US General Construction has a positive outlook on the future as its clients begin to remodel their locations more frequently to stay competitive. “In the past, the restaurant chains might have gone 15 years to remodel, but more of them are trying to keep up with everyone else so they are squeezing remodels to every 10 years,” President Dick Peden says. “A lot of our clients are focused on remodeling to freshen up buildings faster; at the same time, building new buildings as new areas develop.”

Peden founded the Alpharetta, Ga.-based general contracting firm in 1968 after working in the industry for as long as he can remember. “My dad was a homebuilder in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and I grew up working for him on the weekends, in the afternoon and during the summer,” he remembers. “All I knew was construction.”

After attending the Southern Technical Institute in Atlanta, Peden moved back to Florida and built homes for about three years until he got into high-rise construction for a general contractor. From there, Peden went to work for his college roommate’s construction company and built service stations for one year until Peden went out on his own and started US General Construction. “Our customers liked me and wanted me to do all their work,” he says. “It took me six months to get my business together and the first day I started, a friend introduced me to the KFC construction manager who was looking for a contractor.”

From there, US General Construction began to focus mostly on building KFCs and other restaurants and in 1969 built the first Pizza Hut in Georgia. Today, the company continues to perform a majority of its work for Yum! Brands, Darden Restaurants and RaceTrac food and gas stations. “Here in Atlanta we are the oldest contractor in the business specializing in the restaurant industry,” Peden boasts. 

People Matter

US General Construction is a second-generation family owned and operated company. Peden’s son, Richie Peden Jr., is vice president and says as owners, he and his father are both hands-on and directly accessible. “We have a very low turnover rate in our office and in the field,” Richie Peden says. “We have only had one office person leave us in 47 years of business and the rest have retired or still here working for us.” 

The company started small in its first 11 years with just Dick Peden, his secretary and five superintendents. Eleven years later, US General Construction hired its first project manager. Today, the company has 18 superintendents it keeps year-round and a 12-person office staff. “One thing we stand on more than anyone else is longevity,” Dick Peden says. “Our office manager has been here 43 years, our bookkeeper and project manager have been here for many years. We have supers in the field who have worked their whole career here and retired.”

Long-Term Relationships

US General Construction has a core group of subcontractors and suppliers it has been doing business with for years. Some of those subcontractors perform work only for the company and do so because they know the company will pay on time. “In this industry right now, it’s so tough with the subs,” Richie Peden says. “We stress paying on time to entice subs to work for us and we feel that differentiates us from our competitors.”

Paying subcontractors promptly has made US General Construction a priority among the trades and is one of the ways the company has maintained its long-term relationships. “Everyone gets paid by the 10th whether we get paid or not,” Dick Peden says. “We have a line of credit from the bank we hardly ever touch, but it’s there if we need it. Paying people and them knowing they will get paid is getting to be a big thing in the industry. There are a lot of general contractors not paying their subs.” 

The company works to maintain this reputation among subcontractors because the biggest challenge in the industry today is finding qualified subs. “The recession put a lot of subs out of work. Finding good, qualified subs and motivating them to work within budget and in tight timeframes is a constant challenge,” Dick Peden says. “We entice them by paying weekly or bi-weekly and captivate them to work solely or primarily for us.” 

Relationships with subcontractors are vital, but the company also prides itself on the long-term relationships it has developed with clients over the years. US General Construction began working with some clients from the beginning and are still building buildings for them today. 

About 90 percent of the company’s business is repeat clients and within its niche market. “We started building Taco Bell and Pizza Hut in 1979 and are still building them. Some of our clients we do deals with we do on a handshake with no long, drawn-out contract,” Richie Peden says. “We do business the old-fashioned way and you don’t see that very much anymore.” 

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