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The global supply chain crisis caused widespread disruption for the entire industry. Now KFC is setting up for future growth by reimagining operations

Australia managing director Richard Wallis explains why he believes technology is “becoming the new operations.”

No thanks to the global supply chain crisis, KFC’s hopes of a reset to pre-pandemic levels disappeared.

But for its Australia business, it became a long-term opportunity to reimagine how it viewed operations and technology from the ground up — effectively a blueprint for what many pundits have referred to as the next normal.

“In the past, we've treated it [technology] as an add-on, as opposed to an integrated part of our business,” managing director Richard Wallis told QSR Media. “The role that technology plays is making it simpler for team members in particular to be able to make decisions and therefore be more efficient.” 

The fast food chain’s delivery orders, for example, are often bigger than drive-thru or carry out orders, adding a layer of complexity.

“What's happening in our business, and I'm sure it's happening across the industry, is you're getting growth in channels that are disproportionately complex,” he explained.

“You have different aggregators with different technologies and different platforms. Instead of looking at one screen, you might look at a number. We've got to find ways of simplifying those sorts of things for our restaurants to execute better.”

For the first time in decades, Wallis said the business is exploring different management structures, potentially reorganizing it to make the job “more interesting” and offer more responsibility to different parts of the organization, part of a 2030 vision by the global brand.

This includes integrating “foundational” technologies, which will enable them to build different processes moving forward.

“Operations used to be the limiter of your business. The way you execute things in restaurants, you needed to be operations-first. What's happening now is technology is becoming the new operations. Because unless you've got the IT talent and the team to be able to make those products and the technology, you can't even get it to the restaurant teams to execute,” Wallis said.

“You've got delivery drivers coming in from different delivery companies. You've got customers with click & collect coming to the front counter, as well as people ordering at the front counter. There's a lot going on, you've got all of those things happening at the same time. Then you've got a labor shortage in the back of house and then you've got a manager who has to deal with all that complexity. The job has just, you know, almost exponentially increased in complexity in terms of the ability to make decisions.”

Merely bolting technologies in existing operations, he said, could even duplicate manual processes and make it harder for staff. Eventually, it could even be obsolete.

“We've got to get back to first principles. Before you get excited about how sexy this particular component or piece of technology is, you have [to have] the platform that allows it to be easily changed or modified and the interaction between that technology and some of our suppliers and existing processes that we've got,” he said.

“Because it just can't take years to do some of those things anymore. And by the time you actually execute them, the technology is redundant.”

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