A Healthier Alternative
Since 1994, Country Chicken has been successfully operating in Queensland. The company was founded by the current CEO, Mr Peter Austin, Using his extensive knowledge of the poultry industry and hospitality experience, Country Fried Chicken has ambitiously grown into one of the fastest developing Chicken systems in Australia. After seventeen years of operation, the parent company, Associated Food Systems, has expanded into multiple international markets that include Russia, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, New Caledonia and Tonga.
Business Development Manager for Associated Food Systems, Mr James MacGillivray says “Country Fried Chicken has made a name for itself by offering healthier cooking alternatives and targeting a quick delivery of customer orders. MacGillivray says that one of the things that their company focuses on is just that, “consumers want good tasting food that’s not highly processed and delivered as quickly as possible”. He also says that “the challenge is preparing a product, assembling it and serving it in the quickest time possible. And it still has to taste great as well.”
Not the typical team
MacGillivray himself is not your typical businessman, and he admits as much- saying it is one of his strengths. He has worked his way up from the food industry in many different positions, giving him a wide experience to draw from. ”I am not a highly educated text book businessman – what I am is a street smart fast food marketer with experience in many different types of hospitality operations. I have a business management diploma that gave me the bare essentials of business survival. The real world is where I have gained my hard earned experience,” he says. He has owned several food franchises and businesses himself that include delicatessens, cafes and coffee bars. His experience also includes managing flagship stores for Noodle Box and Subway franchises.
Country Fried Chicken offers some of the best franchising opportunities in Australia, New Zealand and abroad. By making their cooking methods as healthy as possible and providing a plethora of menu choices for customers Mr MacGillivray thinks they have found a good mix to attract both customers and licencees alike. Associated Food Systems has two successful brands, ‘Country Fried Chicken’ and ‘Country Chicken & Pizza Express’; both systems are operating successfully in Australia and international markets.
Ingredients to success – some secret, some not
Part of this measure of success is their already strong brand name and the trust that they have built over their 17 years of operations. “Customers, we find are loyal to the food brands they know, like and trust,” says MacGillivray. ”Winning these people over to our fast food options requires better marketing and having menu items that suit most people’s budgets,” he goes on to explain that this is one of the most important considerations that they have to make when developing their menus. “In an economy where a lot of Australians are watching their dollars and cents, you have to be mindful of that.”
Their menu is where they do much of their culinary research, and Associated Food Systems recognizes that not only having fresh ingredients on the menu, fresh ideas can be equally appealing. “It’s important to have new offerings for your customers on a consistent basis,” says MacGillivray. “We’re always looking at trialling new products that cook fast and also taste great.” By keeping this in mind, Country Fried Chicken can react quickly and even predict market trends within the industry.
From the licencees’ perspective Associated Food Systems is always looking at ways to make the opportunities more appealing by looking at market trends and finding ways that they can continually improve their product lines. “Behind the scenes, we’re also looking at ways to improve warehousing operations or better distribution practices so our retailers get product quicker,” he says, and of course, when dealing with food products, quicker means fresher for the customer, and longer shelf-life for the licencees receiving the product.
Making a difference by being different
There are many things that separate Country Fried Chicken from major market competitors. Since 1994 the founder Peter Austin saw a need for a healthier way of cooking fried chicken. This cornerstone of success separates them from the heavyweights of the chicken fast food industry for example KFC. Country Fried Chicken uses fresh chicken that is not marinated which many companies use to mask the use of cheap offcuts of chicken. Country Fried Chicken also uses a secret exciting blend of 13 herbs and spices. This sensational blend of seasoning and the use of cholesterol free cotton seed oil has meant a healthier, tastier and non-greasy product,” says MacGillivray. It must be noted that this means they have beaten the 11 ingredients that one major American brand offers.
Even with a tougher current economic climate, the company continues to expand. “Although we have mostly had no problems, some potential site owners couldn’t get financing as banks have tightened their credit lending criteria,” he says. Associated Food Systems has addressed this by setting up its own financing and assistance programs.
“Helping licencees to succeed is our number one priority and when they win, we win” Mr MacGillivray says.
As global trends move towards an environment where many consumers are dining out and searching for healthier options, Country Fried Chicken looks to be in a great position to embrace these dining out habits.