In Focus
FRANCHISING | Staff Reporter, Australia
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Find out more about Gami Chicken and Beer, the Korean food chain making waves in Victoria

QSR Media sat down with Jun Lee, Executive Director at Innoveil Gami, to talk about Gami Chicken and Beer, the Melbourne-based Korean chicken chain.

Specialising in Korean-style chicken, Gami began in 2006 with the founder ‘Yoon’ in Carnegie. With years of hands on experience with Korean cuisine, Yoon decided to focus on perfecting a recipe for fried chicken & sauces, and sharing one of his country’s favourite foods to the world.

Now, Gami has grown to 12 outlets operating in Victoria, serving hand-cut chemical-free and cage-free chicken served with locally grown vegetables, fruits and herbs.

QSR Media: Can you tell us more about Gami? What differentiates it from other chicken chains?

Gami started as a small Korean cuisine restaurant in Carnegie but quickly saw the opportunity to introduce new style of the food in Australia. Fried Chicken was the choice of doing so, and we hoped the new food trend of influence which occurred in Korea five decades ago can be also realised by bringing diversity in Australia.

Gami also feels very lucky to have our business born in Melbourne, Australia since it has a mature food culture which naturally appreciate the new foods and enjoy them well.

As in taste differentiation, Gami chicken is born from its unique flavour of frying powder extracted from 7 different herbs and core ingredients, balancing the right level of crunchiness, moistness and richness on the palate.

The taste is being further supplemented by the golden-ratio 17 herbs-mixed seasoning, which delivers savoury flavour of Korean spiciness, sweetness and sourness.

Much of the fat under our chicken’s skin is rendered out during the frying process, making it paper-thin and lean, but extra crispy. In contrast, the meat underneath is tender and moist.

Perfection on the taste is much essential to Gami, since Gami in Korean means “Beautiful Taste” which is core value of Gami to maintain.

QSR Media: What have you learned about the industry over the years?

Interestingly, the more we are in food industry, the more we learn how people are important, sometimes more than food itself; more specifically, people as in customer, co-workers and local networks (as in local business partners, suppliers and societies).

Of course, quality of food has to be the essential foundation for Gami too. However, great food itself does not mean anything if people are not mature enough to enjoy it right. This is one of the important reason why Gami feels so lucky to be born in Melbourne, Australia, surrounded by great foodies who are much mature enough to appreciate good food. We feel very lucky to serve them.

We have also learned that creating shared value with local networks are very important. At the start-up, Gami have had good help from local suppliers/partners although we were too small for them to deal with. Our business suppliers/partners saw good amount of passion from Gami and offered their generous help to grow Gami as a business. We could grow only because people in each local network had good faith in us and supported us. We will never forget that help and good will.

Hence, Gami strives for organic growth. Organic growth with our local partners; local chicken processor, local farms, local brewery, local seafood producers, local designers/architects, local leasing agents and local builders.

At last, we have learned our co-workers are the keys to success. Gami would like to grow like a tree. All co-workers/employees are the leaves of the tree. A tree is only healthy when the leaves are bright. We are running a few programs to award/help our co-workers to develop and work better. Sometimes it may not seem enough but we are thriving better than yesterday. Few programs include the Gami Award (reward for the employee of the year), Gami Family Program (program to support an employee to be a Gami shop owner with the help of Gami fund) and career development program. 

QSR Media: What can you say has changed since your brand's founding? 

In order to improve how others receive our brand, we have changed the following:

Creating Australian-centric Tastes

Different cultures appreciate the same tastes in different ways. In spite of us selling Korean-style Chicken, the points of appreciation by different cultures are different. For example, some may say our sweet-chili sauce is too spicy whereas others may say even our spicy-chicken sauce (spicier kinds) is not spicy enough. By balancing these opinions without sacrificing what Korean-style Chicken actually is are part of the key challenges we still have. But I believe that we are creating Australian-centric tastes every day. Since the start, the tastes of our food continuously improved.

All new local supply chain to make sure on the quality of food and healthiness of how we run our business.

The meaning of this is to further connect us to our local business network. By changing our supply chain to locals, we get fresher products/ingredients, great local designs/materials and we create the shared value with our local business networks.

How Korean foods are received by local market has been changed too.

Before we started Gami, we felt that for most Australians when they think about Korean food it was about Korean BBQ. After Gami started focusing on Korean-style Chicken, more people acknowledged the fact that they can be more than Korean BBQ to enjoy from Korean food. Hence, we much appreciate our local foodies who are open to new food culture.

QSR Media: What are the challenges and opportunities you see in the industry today?

Opportunities: We believe that still more than 90% of even Melbournians do not well know about our brand, Gami. If we can approach them in a good way, we believe that we still have good room to grow further. Ironically, low brand awareness is still good opportunity for us to grow.

On the other hand, we see that food industry in Australia are being introduced with greater selections of food than before. We think this became possible by having more mature/open-minded foodies who are willing to try something new and also by fundamental multi-cultural background that Australia embraces.

Challenges: It may be like other industries, unfortunately, having the right people for our work became quite a challenge in food industry. Making good food unfortunately is not an easy job and sometimes work can be challenging in any given working environment. Recruiting and maintaining good labour force became quite a challenge and sometimes prevent us from expanding our business further with good speed. 

QSR Media: Any big plans for the year?

In our perspective, we are planning to step up in the below areas in this year:

Moving into healthier/better choice of food networks

This does not mean that we will claim to have “healthy chicken” by introducing some other selection of food product. This only means we are moving into using more healthy-environmentally grown products/supplies to have a better impact on the chain of food value.

For example, we have decided and are already on the way to detour our supply chain to have better-environmentally grown chicken or ingredients (e.g. Chemical Free, RSPCA approved or very-short-lead-time from farm to shop) than before. We have been sourcing the best ingredients we could find however, we must admit that we still have room to improve.

We have already sourcing or have been testing few better local products for this to happen (e.g. Potato farm harvesting and making chips in the farm factory to ensure freshness and short lead time to our shop, Chicken processed earlier to get fresh chicken the next morning etc).

This is resulting in a change to the whole supply chain but we strive to get this realised by July this year. At this moment, the lead time and the current system allows bit longer time than the new system we are trying to get done.

Acquiring prime locations to meet new customers

This does not mean that we would like to follow big franchisors’ location strategies (to maximise the visibility of brand at every corner). This only means that we have learned very hard that different market prefers different locations so that we would like to expand carefully by acquiring prime locations to meet new customers.

Some market prefers to dine in the shopping centre whereas others prefers in authentic food streets.

Gami was preferring only in food centric streets however, in order to meet new customers with different preferences, we have decided to secure more prime locations (e.g. shopping centre food precinct or new-development entertain zone etc.).

This year may be an active year to secure newer location in the interstates as well.

Photo credit: Gami Chicken and Beer website

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