In Focus
EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Australia

Here comes the newest concept in the fast casual dining scene, Skinnys low-carb cafe, bar and grill

QSR Media sits down with James McGovern, founder and CEO of Skinnys, to talk about the innovative low-carb fast casual brand and its plans for the future.

As the franchise which claims to be "Low on Carb, Fat on Flavour," Skinnys aims to serve guilt free comfort food on the high street, with a menu which took a year of research, testing and development. Stores are open and locations are locked down for Bondi, Parramatta, Penrith and Norwest.

QSR Media: Can you tell us more about Skinnys Grill? What inspired you to create a low-carb cafe bar and grill franchise?

James McGovern: My last concept where I was CEO, was a health food cafe- however I felt that the gym junkie market was too niche and that it wasn't even fulfilling my needs (wants!) as a consumer who enjoys working out and eating well. I wanted to make a concept where all the bad foods I craved, were good for me - and tasted like the real thing. There is no other concept out there where mainstream products such as burgers, pizzas, pasta, desserts, even alcohol - is low carb. Grill'd are the only one's to hit the tip of the iceberg with their low carb "superbun". (Ours has even less carbs.) We do not compete in the health market against Paleo Cafe, or Olivers. We are more of a great tasting casual dining that happens to be low carb.

QSR Media: What goes behind the process of making your brand's menu items to fit your brand's healthy standards?

James McGovern: We've worked with manufacturers to develop products that are normally synonymous with high carb (breads, pizza, pasta, desserts, beer) and create low carb alternatives... Not lower carbs. But low carb. Our highest carb count in a product is 15g per 100g. To give you perspective, pasta is generally around 70g per 100g and bread is normally around 50g per 100g. For us, we do not want to compromise our unique core concept by allowing anything more than 15g per 100g carbs on our menu - and we plan to even improve on this number. Our products are also proprietary and exclusive, eliminating the shop down the road trying to release a copycat product.

QSR Media: What do you think about the recent trend of sustainable food options, such as cage-free eggs, hormone-free meat, vegetarian options? Will you be looking into these for your brand in the future?

James McGovern: Sustainable food options have to be the future. You only have to look at the way the entire food retail market is shifting to see that it's here to stay - and for good reason. Studies have shown the dramatic difference in anti-oxidant levels between organic and non-organic, among other significant benefits. We also have plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.

QSR Media: Where do you see your brand five years from now? How about ten?

James McGovern: We have loaded our team with experience including Arun Bakshi (COO - Former COO Outback Steakhouse South East Asia), Lindsay Munns (Advisory Board Chairman - Former CEO Anytime Fitness Australia) and James McGovern (CEO). Our short term goals are to create a stronghold in Sydney, expanding over the next 12 months and establishing the brand with 20 outlets across metropolitan Sydney. More important than our growth in numbers - is ensuring integrity of the brand and the concept - as well as revenue performance and profitability of each outlet. We recently exhibited at the Franchise Expo in Sydney to a massive response, and are excited about some franchise business partners in the mix to help with this growth.

Our five year goals are to have a national portfolio with a truly recognized brand - pioneering the way for accessible guilt free food. Ten years... Who knows?! With the international experience of our exec team, some Skinnys abroad isn't out of the question.

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