A British twist on an American classic has proved a long-running international success for Southern Fried Chicken. Global Franchise talks to FFS Brands chairman, Andrew Withers
What was your background before starting up this venture?
I have always worked in the food industry, building a lifetime of experience, starting when I was eight years old. I began cooking for my father’s Donut and Hot Dog business despite not being able to see over the counter!
How did the brand come about, and when?
Southern Fried Chicken started in 1980, when my father saw a gap in the market to add professionally-cooked chicken into existing British takeaways, which were mostly fish and chip shops at the time. Demand was very high and drove the growth of the business, which became a registered trademark in 1983.
What distinguishes this franchise from its rivals?
We set ourselves apart from our rivals by our passion for fresh and wholesome ingredients. We use nothing processed or artificial, which helps us to replicate our great tasting and healthy product throughout the globe with locally-sourced produce. We believe that fresh is best and the quality of our ingredients and the care we take in preparing our food shows in the final product.
Is this a British take on US Southern Fried or a Southern US recipe?
Fried chicken has been around for a long time, it evolved into the product we know and love over 100 years ago in Southern America. We introduced it to Europe and tailored it to the market – incorporating more herbs and spices than the original American recipes used, which were mostly flour and salt.
This makes our signature taste distinct and flavoursome. We think of it as a British twist on the American classic.
How healthy is the market for fried chicken in the UK and abroad?
Interest from those looking to open a franchised restaurant has changed focus from burgers to fried chicken. Demand for chicken has overtaken that of beef over the last three years and chicken is in fact the number one-selling quick service product globally, mostly thanks to its being easily accessible, low in cost, high in protein content, versatile and having a great taste. This makes the market for fried chicken very healthy throughout the world and has aided our success.
Where are your outlets situated and which areas are growing fastest?
Our most successful regions are Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Countries with a less developed quick service industry have a high demand and need for a professionally-run restaurant that helps control the quality of the product and the experience customers have. Our years in the industry and access to our resources proves invaluable in these areas.
What’s the secret of successful overseas expansion?
There is no real secret to the success of our overseas expansion, we have a quality product that can be made with easily-accessible locally-sourced ingredients and is affordable. We are able to offer opportunities to franchisees at a low initial investment, which allows individual entrepreneurs to introduce Southern Fried Chicken into smaller towns and expand their business into a chain of restaurants.
There is also often less competition in these areas which helps us capture the market and raise awareness of our brand, making it easier for growth to continue. Maintaining a great relationship with our franchises has certainly been a contributor to our success and we are committed to working hard to ensure this continues and improves.
What qualities do you look for in a prospective franchisee?
When we are looking for prospective franchisees, above all else we value someone with a strong work ethic. Readiness to listen, adapt and learn are important factors, as is someone who understands that being a franchisee is about replicating success. Enthusiasm for quality and caring about the brand as a whole are also key attributes. Creating and running a successful restaurant is not always easy, but it is very rewarding! We work closely with our franchisees to ensure they are successful.
What support can franchises expect from you?
We work with franchisees right from the start, helping them to choose a location, research the local market supply for ingredients, design of the restaurant and a full training program. We help with operations, management, marketing, quality control and branding. Upon opening a restaurant one of our trained operations managers can spend up to 4 weeks with the franchisee to help give them and their staff the very best start. When up and running, we provide support with operation manuals and ongoing phone support from our head office in the UK.
How strong is your marketing?
Our most successful marketing is perhaps by our customers! People tell their friends and they in turn tell their friends, helping to spread the word about our great range of products. We provide product photography, branding and over 40 years of knowledge and experience on how to promote a restaurant by utilising key platforms such as packaging, social media, magazines, email campaigns and physical media.
What are your future plans for Southern Fried Chicken?
The future of Southern Fried Chicken is looking very positive as we continue to develop our brand globally. We are re-introducing Southern Fried Chicken back to the UK and Western European markets together with a push to move into markets we haven’t approached before. This will bring us new challenges which we are looking forward to overcoming. We aim to work hard alongside our franchisees to continuously add value to the brand.
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