In Focus
EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Kevin Santos, Australia

Chicken Treat chief sees QSR industry further exploring fast casual space

Mimma Battista discusses how the brand looks to synergise their physical and digital assets and her latest thoughts on expanding.

Chicken Treat’s shopfront stores may see a lift to display a more fast casual feel, with its chief executive expecting customers to value an on-premise dining experience amidst an ongoing boom towards delivery, drive-thru and the like.

“Our shopfront stores could morph a little bit more to service a customer in that sort of fast casual space. We're looking at incorporating alcohol into that offering as well...that's my current view at the moment,” chief executive Mimma Battista told QSR Media.

“No doubt, that changes as we mature over time. But I certainly see the QSR industry moving towards that fast casual space. You see that in McDonald's fitouts. Now, they're more high end, they're more comfortable. I don't think any of the brands are looking at a cookie cutter approach.”

Already benefiting from being trusted and affordable meal replacements, Battista noted that there is opportunity in reaching people who are “trading down” from more expensive options.

“My view is that if I can provide a great restaurant quality product at an affordable price with incredible flavors, then we could also meet the needs of a customer that may have gone to a cafe restaurant,” she said.

Bringing in more coffee is also a potential option for Chicken Treat, looking to address areas that have higher demand during mornings. Dessert ranges are also being explored, with the brand testing a soft-serve product.

“I don't see...a delineation anymore between QSR(s) and [casual dining] restaurants, I think that we can test the boundaries to cover new territories,” Battista added.

Digitising the drive-thru experience
Their drive-thru stores, however, played an “extremely important” role in the growth achieved by its store network in the last year. Last December, the Craveable Brands-owned chain reported 36 months of positive growth, with profitability up 120% year-on-year for franchise partners.

During the lockdown, Battista said the lunch, afternoon snacking and early dinner segments grew. “We tracked the traffic changes and communicated that regularly with our franchise network to make sure that we could actually service them,” she recalled. Chicken, both fried and rotisserie, and burgers remained their key categories.

The current plan: increase sales by a further 50% and add 20 new sites, predominantly drive-thru stores.

Seeing the demand and rewards, Battista wants its drive-thrus to maintain a very convenient speed of service time. Digital drive-thru boards are also part of the conversation to improve on that front. This, she said, is to help consumers to “navigate their menu boards to make the ordering and buying decisions easier.”

Battista wants to complement the revamping of their drive-thru with the chain’s physical assets, exemplified by its latest brand refresh.

“There's still an absolute trend that the condition and presentation of our physical assets must present really well because what it does for consumers, even if they're not walking into our premises, or driving through our drive-thru, it allows them to create brand consideration.”

Creating a strong footprint in WA
Plans to expand to the eastern seaboard on FY22 are on Chicken Treat’s mind, with Battista revealing they are specifically looking at two states to enter into. Their strategy will be wrapped up by the end of March, she said.

Having a strong footprint in WA, however, remains a key goal.

“I would envisage that between 80 and 100 [stores]....over the next five years,” she said.

2021, in particular, will also be the year when Chicken Treat introduces its own e-commerce platform, seeing it as a way to pursue personalised approaches in reaching its customers and join the ordering ahead trend.

“Purchasing with us will help us then personalize their journeys as they transact with us moving forward. Data is vital to gaining sort of more insight into how we can best serve our customers,” she said.

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