Buckhead Resident Mike Lassiter Creates Legacy of Sandwiches and Swim

Those who have dined in a Schlotzsky’s or a Rising Roll Gourmet Café around town effectively have Mike Lassiter to thank for the experience. Lassiter, CEO and founder of Franchising Concepts, brought the former to the Georgia area and the latter to the masses. More locally, Lassiter also helped spearhead the creation of the venerable Chastain Park Tidal Waves swim team.

His swim and sandwich influence around Georgia — there are now five Rising Roll locations in Atlanta alone — is a result of Lassiter “falling in love with Atlanta,” and completely altering his career trajectory for his desire to call Chastain Park home.

Setting Down Roots and Rolling out Franchises 

Mike Lassiter

Lassiter first came to Atlanta an outsider in 1985. He was working for a photo-finishing firm based out of Houston, Texas, and relocated to Sandy Springs for work. Soon after, Lassiter said he “was lucky enough to get introduced to Chastain Park.”

“I just loved Chastain Park so much,” Lassiter said. “With the sports fields, the family atmosphere, the golf course, the walking around the park, I said, okay, I’m going to (live) here one day.”

Lassiter would see that ambition come to fruition. First, there was business to tend to.

Lassiter already knew he wanted to remain in Atlanta. When he was asked by his job to relocate back to Texas he replied no, he wanted to remain here.

“I knew right then and there my career with them was over when I told them no,” he said.

Looking for a new venture, Lassiter remembered his favorite lunch spot from his original hometown, Schlotzsky’s. There weren’t any in Georgia at the time. He connected with the company’s corporate office, requesting a call should they ever want to expand into the Peach State.

It took over four years for Lassiter to get a call back, but once he did, his career path immediately transformed.

“The timing was perfect, I was looking for something else,” he said. “I met them, got invited to Texas, did my due diligence and said, ‘I want to do this.’”

Lassiter bought the rights to develop Schlotzsky’s locations in Georgia as an “area developer.” Later he bought the rights to Houston. Lassiter opened 85 locations in the two areas between 1991-99. At one point he personally owned a location in Roswell.

“My company was the largest developer (of Schlotzsky’s) outside of Dallas,” Lassiter said. “The Dallas area developers wanted Houston, and they made me a great offer and bought me out. I sold that business and then created Franchising Concepts. We help people go find franchises, we help the business tee everything up, and we get franchises ready to go.”

Beyond sandwiches

Lassiter inadvertently found his next major franchising opportunity while having lunch at a father-son owned café in Alpharetta.

“You go in there and there are a lot of products made from scratch,” he said. “There was an incredible chicken salad with chicken that had never been frozen. They made their own pasta salad, pimento cheese, there was so much freshly made food. The food was all of a very high-quality profile.”

Lassiter touts Rising Roll was Zagat-rated “Excellent” for 13 consecutive years when the publication still rated such restaurants.

In 2003, Rising Roll Gourmet Café came to be with a focus on fresh, easy and healthy food. There are currently about two dozen locations in operation or in the works around the southeast and Texas. Many can be found around Atlanta, including at the Candler Building, Regions Tower in Midtown at the Wells Fargo Building in Atlantic Station.

Rising Roll was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, as was the entire restaurant industry, but Lassiter said the company “is definitely making a strong comeback.” The next major step for the company is expanding its presence at hospitals and colleges/universities, he said.

Meanwhile, Lassiter says the driving focus of the company is on community. Rising Roll is an avid supporter of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Murphy-Harpst Children Center in Cedartown and Bert’s Big Adventure, a nonprofit providing all-expense paid trips to Walt Disney World for children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families.

Lassiter witnesses, and helps develop, Chastain Park’s prominence


Lassiter saw his desire to call Chastain Park home become a reality in 1995. He’s lived in the community since. He first purchased a home on Hillside Drive when he was single.

“I got engaged and married and moved four houses away,” he laughed. “My wife and I would walk around the area and down Broadland [Road]. I said if any house became available, I was going to buy it. Well one day I thought I saw an agent putting up a ‘for sale’ sign. It really wasn’t on the market, but I asked to see the house. I made an offer right then and there to buy it.”

Lassiter said to all the amenities Chastain Park offers within walking distance makes its an “amazing place.”

“It just continues to get better,” he said. “When I moved here, the path around the park was just a little dirt in some areas and a little bit of sidewalk. They have really developed it into something special. It’s a gamechanger. The horse park is special. The concert venue is special. It’s been upgraded so much around there, and the community is involved in the park. Chastain Park is a great part of Buckhead because its family focused, too. You walk around there and see so many families and couples. It gets better every year.”  

Lassiter has helped that influence grow. Around the time of Rising Roll’s foundations, he led efforts to create the Tidal Wave swim team.

“I swam in college, and I got together with another former college swimmer,” he said. “Together, we launched the Chastain Park swim team in 2003. The pool hadn’t had an organized swim team in a long time, or maybe ever. We got the community together, got the initial team together, hired a coach and created the Tidal Wave Swim Team. We were given an award for the best new swim team, and I still have that trophy in my house.”

The team has since captured eight Atlanta Swim Association championships in addition to providing the opportunity for numerous swimmers to compete in Buckhead.

“So much positive has come from [the swim team],” Lassiter said. Every time I walk by there and see the sign, it just feels really good to see the difference we made there.”

Though Lassiter is now seeking to downsize and move to the North Georgia mountains — his three adult children are all set to leave the nest or have already — he remains thankful for his time in Buckhead and Chastain Park.

He still has no regrets saying “no” to moving away from the area nearly 40 years later.

“I love the community so much,” he said.  

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