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Chicken and Beer: Business lessons from Jun Lee, co-founder, Gami Chicken

Opening the doors of its first restaurant in Melbourne in 2006, it was three more years before Gami Chicken opened a second location in Melbourne’s CBD.

Now, with 37 stores, Gami Chicken is edging in on 42 casual dining locations across Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, and the ACT by the end of 2023.

The aggressive targets belie the casual dining restaurant’s initial slow and steady approach which has made it a predominantly Victorian success-story to date.

Jun Lee, Gami Chicken’s Executive Director, leads the group of four co-founders who met at Monash University then pursued their own careers, but re-grouped 10 years later to pursue their initial food business idea first raised at university. Below Jun shares his key business lessons.

Consistently deliver your core value. Maintain the brand’s core value with business, brand and product development providing support. 

Simplicity is at the heart of the Gami Chicken’s casual dining offer. The co-founders’ (Jun Lee, Rio Yoon, Max Ji and Ayden Jung) vision of creating a casual dining setting to enjoy tasty Korean chicken and drink specifically brewed beer is not complicated, and maintains ‘serving tasty food’ as its core value.

“Tasty food is what we are known for and what draws people to us.  So, all our business systems are set up to support our core value, allowing us to focus on delivering our value proposition,” said Jun.

“Maintaining a focus on tasty food and continuous innovation has helped Gami Chicken push through Covid-19 lockdowns and adjust to inflation and ingredient cost pressures.

“New menu items have delivered increased value to customers and improved revenue for franchisees, with new value packs delivering 271 per cent sales growth between March and June 2023.”

A steadfast approach to quality delivers sustained growth.

Gami Chicken’s growth is based on developing individual franchised stores and helping grow existing locations. Their proven business model including clear operating procedures, efficient systems, and well-defined processes, can easily be replicated across multiple locations.

Jun has learned that honest, respectful business relationships that don’t shy away from difficult conversations deliver the best outcomes for all parties.

“The Gami Chicken approach of helping franchisees establish themselves from the start has helped drive the success of individual stores, adapting to different markets while maintaining profitability,” said Jun.

From 20 locations in 2018  to 28 in 2021, and 37 restaurants in 2023, Gami Chicken’s steady approach to expansion and scalability has allowed new franchisees to establish themselves with the full support of the head office team providing comprehensive training, ongoing support, marketing assistance, and guidance,  whilst maintaining a quality first approach.

Know your customer – this includes your franchisees and end-consumers.

Although many country and region-specific hospitality franchises target certain ethnicities to maintain authenticity, Jun acknowledges that the Gami Chicken story is an Australian one.

“Just like our restaurant customers, Gami Chicken franchisees are not necessarily Korean or from a wider Asian background. We don’t require a Korean franchisee, restaurant manager, or staff to maintain our authenticity,” said Jun.

“Indeed, some customers don’t even know Gami Chicken has a Korean influence, which is a good thing.”

This focus on strong operators regardless of ethnic background has helped Gami Chicken scale the business over the past decade.

Quality doesn’t just refer to the food being served.

“A franchise agreement is a long-term relationship and just as we do our research, so too should a potential franchisee who are welcome to talk to existing franchisees. Thorough research, due diligence, and careful consideration should be undertaken before entering into any franchise agreement. Both sides must find out as much about your partner as you possibly can, before taking that giant step,” said Jun.

Franchise businesses thrive on consistency and standardisation. Customers expect a consistent experience regardless of the location they visit. Franchises achieve this through standardised products, services, operations, and customer service.

“To stay competitive and adapt to changing consumer preferences, Gami Chicken invests in continuous innovation with the customer in mind. This includes introducing new products that keep the franchise fresh and relevant in the market,” added Jun.

“Consumer spending and behaviour data, along with trends and eating habits, and consumer types based on income and other demographic information drives our food and drinks menu, prices, store locations, and every aspect of our forward planning.”

Structure allows for change.

“A well-structured franchise agreement and business model helps adapt to change quickly,” said Jun.

“All business movement comes from a tried and tested model which means any changes can implemented. Covid-19 lockdowns ignited home delivery and changed food ordering for everyone across the industry.

“We were able to move quickly because of a robust franchise and business model. Now, in 2023, our dine-in category makes up 54.7 per cent of our in-store revenue composition, followed by delivery at 30.7% and takeaway at 14.6 per cent.”

For more information visit www.innoveilgami.com.au

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