Western Australia’s favourite ready-to-eat chook chain is on the march, with 10 stores to be added to the home state by the end of 2021, and in 2022 a launch into the eastern seaboard.
It’s what managing director Mimma Battista is calling “breaking the border”.
All this follows on from a surprising 12 months that in 2020 delivered the chicken chain its third year of positive growth: four stores opened between 2019 and 2020, implementation of the rebrand strategy, and good statistics showcasing an increase in sales and franchisee profitability.
Chicken Treat is flying right now:
- 36 months of positive growth
- best sales in two decades
- franchisee profitability up 120 per cent year on year
- sales growth has tripled in three years
- plans to increase sales by a further 50 per cent by FY23.
It’s the partnership at the heart of the franchise relationship that helped get everyone through the difficult, challenging year that all businesses and business owners faced in 2020.
As franchisor, Mimma (who prefers to use the term partner) ensured the support team was focused on what was important in 2020.
“Our strategy was to provide comfort; all franchisees needed to focus on was great customer experience. Over the past few years, our strong focus has been focusing on labour, cost of goods sold, inventory management.”
Insights that helped franchisees
Chicken Treat introduced shared benchmarking data to help franchisees understand the opportunities they could work with their business development manager to achieve.
“We’re here focused on our franchise partners and their success, particularly growing top-line sales and profitability. Their success is our success.”
Mimma says the profitability measures were in place pre-Covid. It was a combination of strong leadership, clear communications, and the safety of franchisees, staff and customers that became the fuel that drove business success.
During Covid-19, Chicken Treat started benchmarking customer traffic flows and discovered there was a change to Aussies’ dining habits.
“We started to experience stronger lunch and snack day parts. Dinners are traditionally 6.30 pm on, they peak at 7.30–8 pm. What we were seeing with working from home is the advent of early dinner, starting at 5.30 pm.
“We kept the network informed so they could make roster changes to support the increase in business. It minimised customer issues,” says Mimma.
“We also saw a return to comfort; in uncertain times we love to indulge ourselves. Even as the seasons change, we see that continuing.”
A new look chook
The brand overhaul has seen a repositioning of the brand, menu improvements and food innovations with a touch of fun.
“It’s about being true to ourselves, our brand identity.”
To reach this point required significant research, explains Mimma, who came into the brand as CEO six years ago with experience as an executive in the food and beverage industry, including nine years at Gloria Jean’s Coffees.
“For any CEO stepping into the chair there is an element of intuition, but you can’t go with intuition to the board, it requires consumer-led research and researching franchise partners and team members.”
Mimma says what franchise members wanted is essentially what they are now getting.
“Their future view of the brand is where we are today – a modern brand with quality products, a fun brand.”
She is thrilled with the willingness of franchisees to join the journey, to adapt and change systems and products.
“To their credit they embraced the changes. It was a fairly in-depth process, we modelled out the financial perspective and walked them through it. We worked as a group with the [internal] Franchise Advisory Council and the network, and embraced innovation and new technology, and store design and upgrade works.
“There is great spirit in the franchise community, a very positive mindset. It’s the culture. If that’s strong, everything flows out of there. Franchisees have a desire to be successful, to provide an amazing experience.”
There is no doubt the fast food industry remains highly competitive and Chicken Treat has its place as a “trusted, affordable meal replacement whether you are time poor or looking for an affordable food experience” Mimma adds.
Coming out of a Covid-19 mindset, the elevation of customer experience will be highly important, she predicts.
And that’s why upgrading the assets is a high priority at Chicken Treat. The business is aiming for frictionless technology to help customers order and receive their meal efficiently.
That could be kerbside pick-up, drive-through lanes, ordering ahead, in-house kiosk ordering.
“It is important to understand what customers want. We have a strong e-commerce platform. How do we make that amazing and easy for a customer?”
The original goal was to “fix the stores, fix the food, fix the brand”, says Mimma. Now growth is very much part of the plan.
“Part of our strategy is to have another 20 stores in three years in WA. We are working quite heavily on moving into the eastern seaboard – breaking borders by 2022.”
While the fundamentals will form the foundation for the brand’s expansion, transposing Chicken Treat 5000 km across the country to the eastern seaboard may mean the brand will look different in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.
“It’s about understanding the customers, the proposition, looking at the data for the brand and mapping success, where do we go and what does the customer want?”
This article first appeared in Inside Franchise Business magazine, Feb/Apr 2021 edition.