Hog’s Breath CEO responds to franchisee claims

Nick Hall

Iconic Australia steakhouse, Hog’s Breath Cafe has spoken out against reports of franchisee dissatisfaction and mismanagement.

Hog’s Breath rose to prominence as a franchise leader in the casual dining space, offering customers a slow-cooked prime rib and signature curly fries.

However, a difficult 12 months and a downturn in the market has forced the closure of a number of Hog’s Breath outlets, including the long-serving Petrie Terrace restaurant in Brisbane’s inner city.

In the last six months, eight Hog’s Breath locations have closed their doors, with the brand dropping from an over 80-strong network at its peak to just 65.

On Friday, franchisee tensions reached the media.

The Courier Mail reported that some Hog’s Breath franchisees had banded together, alleging a series of misguided marketing campaigns and a convoluted rebranding had damaged the franchise’s image.

Hog’s Breath CEO responds

Ross Worth, Hog’s Breath CEO disagreed, arguing that certain economic factors could not be ignored.

“To say that restaurant closures can’t be blamed on a downturn in the economy is contrary to every report that I’ve read over the past 18 months.  It’s unquestionably the toughest environment we’ve seen in our 30-year history,” Worth told Inside Franchise Business.

Hog’s Breath, like many others in the fast-casual space has been hit hard by delivery platform like UberEats, forcing revenue down.

Worth revealed that in order to traverse the evolving restaurant landscape, brands must be willing to innovate, which can be a lengthy process.

“In addition to a decrease in spending, we’ve also had to adapt to completely new customer eating habits with the arrival of UberEats and other food delivery services,” Worth said.

“Of course, this is sadly going to impact on some restaurants, as it has impacted on many across the country, including several high-profile closures from leading chefs and operators. Most franchisees have embraced our new initiatives and are running good operations with the support of our dedicated head office team and the systems we have in place to help them succeed.”

Media reports

The reports focused on former franchisee Desmond Francios, who was reportedly forced to shut his Western Australian restaurant and file for bankruptcy after less than five years in business.

Worth acknowledged that store closures had taken an emotional toll on the network, however he refuted reports that Hog’s Breath had left failing franchisees ‘high and dry’.

“We want all of our franchises to succeed and work very hard to provide them with the resources to do so, including a business coach, full financial and cost control advice, human resources, comprehensive marketing plans, ongoing training, and much more,” Worth said.

“There are a lot of emotions involved for all parties when a business closes and our first priority is always the health and wellbeing of our people and the impact that the closure has on everyone involved, from the owner and their family, to staff members and suppliers, not to mention our customers. We do whatever we can to provide support to all parties during this difficult time.”

Hog’s Breath future

The latest allegations hit Hog’s Breath at a less-than ideal time, with the brand set to launch a 30th anniversary campaign in June.

Worth said for the time being, the focus will be firmly on the network’s existing franchisees.

“It’s never easy to close a restaurant but our focus must stay on our franchisees and 65 plus restaurants as we continue to evolve and look for ways to decrease costs and increase profitability through technology and other initiatives.”