BEEFING UP INTEREST
After settling into the Australian market, Carl’s Jr is ready to spur growth with the goal of reaching 300 restaurants.
Carl’s Jr is ready to spur growth across the Australian market.
Carl’s Jr, the US burger brand that slipped into the Australian market a couple of years ago, has grand plans for growth, with 11 stores lined up over the next 12 months as part of its goal to reach 300 restaurants nationwide.
Global CEO Jason Marker says he thinks the brand fits with the Australian psyche. “It’s a bit disruptive, irreverent, impossible to ignore. I think that kind of attitude and tone resonates in Australia.”
So how is the business going to achieve its growth targets in a crowded fast-food marketplace?
Marker, visiting Australian restaurants in the burger chain alongside international director Ned Lyerly, spoke to Inside Franchise Business about the plans for expansion. Carl’s Jr now numbers 4000 restaurants globally in a burger marketplace worth US$20 billion.
“We’ve tripled our restaurant count in 10 years and we’re expecting 1000 in the next five years. Australia is a key market for us,” he says. A corporate office will be opened here this year with about 10 staff.
“Australians are really discerning about food quality. They eat a lot of
QSR but try to optimise it. We definitely have a more premium offer, always made to order, hand made, crafted. It is a Californian brand, and the beach culture imagery around it resonates.”
Long known for its promotional material featuring women in bikinis, the company ditched the sexist imager y last year. It is now attracting the attention of pop-culture icons such as Snoop Dogg, who t weeted a v ideo of a d rive-through visit to C arl’s Jr with best mate Matthew McConaughey. With his Texan drawl, McConaughey voiced the latest ad campaign for the Western Bacon Cheeseburger.
So far the brand has just five outlets in Australia, but three of these have been the biggest international openings for the chain within their first month of trading.
“We’re expecting to build 300 in the next 10 to 15 years across Australia,” reveals Marker.
New Zealand already has 18 Carl’s Jr outlets.
Launching the brand on the New South Wales’ Central Coast allowed the business to put together strong foundations before extending its footprint, Marker says. “It’s really important for us to do this well. It’s not about growing rapidly at all costs, it’s about the right people, the right locations.”
Lyerly says the focus is on grade-A sites in South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and, later, Victoria. Franchisees have several prototypes they can consider, from drive-throughs to 280sqm stores or a 60sqm food-court outlet.
“We are looking for franchisees in the greater Sydney area,” he says. “We’re very deliberate in choosing franchisees. We look for franchisees that bring a lot of retail and restaurant experience, and an ability to acquire real estate. The sales levels have generated franchisee interest.”
Marker says the business is extremely focused on restaurant economics.
“I’m clear, when our franchisees are doing well and making money, that’s how we make money. We have equity restaurants but we own to learn. We’re a franchise. When a franchisee is not making money, it’s our focus.
“We approve site selections and procedural things they do. We have a lot of experience in making sure they don’t trip up. We take our model and give people the head start. There’s absolutely no advantage ever to have a franchisee fail – we would not find future franchisees.
“It’s about partnership and people capability, right people, fantastic processes and systems, and brand identity. You must stand for something; in a busy category you can’t be‘ me too’. You have to stand for something compelling and often different. You don’t have to appeal to everyone.”
Marker said “The reality is Australia is a competitive landscape. In the food courts, QSR environment, you’ve got to be really good.
“The number one thing is fantastic product that has to be delivered to the customer consistent with how the customer wants today.
“We have the best burgers in QSR, the best assets, a s er vice system that’s more hospitable than other QSR.
We’re focused on made fresh to order, table service, more touch points for customers. Our restaurant assets are new and fresh, more urban industrial, wood, a contemporary environment.”
Marker says there will be customisation to the menu to suit the local market. “Our icons work everywhere and are tried and proven, but there will be an Australian flair to the brand,” he says. “We use Angus beef all over the world, but here it’s Australian Angus.”
You must stand for something; in a busy category you can’t be ‘me too’.