• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Food Concepts: West Africa’s largest QSR franchisor with over 300 stores

Nigeria’s QSR industry growing with tech adoption

Backed by technology, consumer behaviour in today’s fast-paced world has markedly evolved from that observed during the industrial revolution. The information age provides consumers with numerous on-the-go options in the fashion, entertainment, and food sectors to meet their growing demands.

With Nigeria’s population projected by the United Nations to hit the 233 million mark by 2025, and the International Monetary Fund’s projection of 13.36 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 2026, the demand for services of the QSRs will also be on the rise.

To be sure, QSR existed as early as the 1960s, albeit with limited menu offerings. However, various factors, such as purchasing power, government policies, poor marketing, non-observance of food laws, and a lack of technological tools to propel sales, have led to their shrinkage or, at worst, demise.

In 1999, Food Concepts Plc, a Nigerian brand, emerged in the food sector and commenced operations in 1999. It set out to redefine the face of QSR in Nigeria by first acquiring rights to a few South African-owned franchises and then progressed to establish its first wholly Nigerian QSR, Chicken Republic, in 2004, following a series of corporate restructuring and divestment. In 2019, the company launched PieXpress, its pastry arm, to cater to mobile, transient consumers with various on-the-go baked goods options. The ingenious expansion is a mobile pop-up store housed within the premises of existing Chicken Republic stores and powered by renewable energy sources. This approach to expansion ensured reduced expenditure for acquiring properties, thus increasing profit margins for the business to channel to other aspects while creating more jobs across all of its 75 locations. Food Concepts has since established The Chop Box with the opening of the second service store in Agungi, Lagos.

With a focus on consistency in consumer experience, Chicken Republic opened its first store in 2005. The brand’s exponential growth isn’t as secret as its closely guided recipes. Food Concepts attributes the growth and sustainability of its brands to its drive to deliver excellent customer service. The Food concept brand has witnessed continual growth within and outside Nigeria under the leadership of the recently elected Managing Director, Mr Kofi Abunu. Currently, it boasts over 300 stores spread across Nigeria and Ghana, with a growth projection of 430 stores by next year.

To achieve this, it works closely with a team of experts from diverse professional backgrounds, with over 50% of the team comprising women, to establish brand development by conducting market research, creating a brand identity, and establishing a marketing strategy that resonates with its target audience.

Training staff and educating the franchisees on running stores is another important aspect of maintaining brand consistency across all locations. It easily achieves this through the franchise relations that help it understand the level of support franchisees need while leaving room to cultivate a culture of franchisee independence that inspires innovation.

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Typically, QSR businesses are expected to thrive on the backdrop of an enabling environment, but sometimes, that isn’t the case. Various overwhelming adversities could ultimately lead to the collapse of a franchise if they fail to adapt and evolve.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, to circumvent the hassle of the lockdown, Chicken Republic leveraged major online retail stores, logistics companies, and its owned online assets to push much-needed products to consumers.

Despite the hard-hitting blows dealt by the pandemic on the hospitality and food sector in 2020, at the 2021 AGM to review the fiscal year that started in 2020, the company reported that it recorded N1.1 billion in profits after taxes (PAT), signifying a 31 per cent growth in system sales, and a 19 per cent increase in customer traffic to stores after lockdown measures were eased. Much of the foot traffic could also be attributed to its wide range of affordable meal deals.

In 2022, it further reviewed its food menu option to accommodate more customers by introducing the EggStar Meal, with an unmatched pricing point. The unusual move earned Chicken Republic an online viral status across all social media platforms, translating to an increased market share through customer base expansion.

With a sudden rise in demand, the pressure might lead to resorting to shortcuts to achieve results. However, Food Concepts prides itself on being involved at every level of the supply chain to ensure top-notch service delivery.

Whether it is ensuring that standards are maintained in compliance with the various ISO certifications to ensuring that staff are continually trained with the guidance of its ‘People Capability Always’ philosophy, to seeking customer opinion on preferences, the company’s hands-on approach has cemented its status as the most loved QSR and baked goods brand in this part of the world.

At this pace, PieXpress is expected to mushroom to a milestone of 247 stores by 2024, increasing its contribution to the annual 10 per cent growth rate of the QSR sector estimated at N250 billion by the Restaurant and Food Service Proprietors Association of Nigeria (REFSPAN).

With over two decades operating in the food sector, the team, using the concept of the minimum viable product (MVP), continually carry out market testing for products to ascertain the growth potential of newly introduced brands or products. With just one location, The Chop Box has entered the space of providing foodies with local delicacies.

At a time when international brands are chipping away at the QSR market share, Food Concepts holds its own as an indigenous creation. So far, it has created over 6,000 direct and thousands of indirect jobs across the supply chain, positively impacting local entrepreneurs and the informal sector while maintaining a strong market share.

With an authentic outlook to provide food product lines tailored to Africans, Food Concepts dominates the QSR space through franchising efforts. It has become a significant player in shaping the food culture in West Africa, leaving an indelible mark in the hearts of its satisfied consumers.