Mention comfort food in Malaysia and you’re bound to hear the words ‘Chicken Rice’ yelled enthusiastically by any rightthinking Malaysian. Whether you’re 8 or 80, if you grew up in the land of the twin towers, it’s very unlikely that you’ve never eaten this particular dish.
It is no surprise then, that a chain called The Chicken Rice Shop (TCRS) has done very well for itself over here and abroad – with 89 outlets in Malaysia alone and two outlets in Singapore, in addition to an outlet in KLIA2, another in Brunei that is Halal-certified, plus two more outlets in Myanmar.
Inspired by the traditional secret Hainanese chicken rice recipe and heritage dishes from Penang, the best of both worlds intermingles to introduce a halal-certified menu that has proven to be very popular.
TCRS goes to great lengths to meet the high standards of Halal compliance and employs stringent measures to ensure all their products are processed and produced in accordance with Shariah law. They also have an internal Halal committee, comprising of Syariah and Food Technologists that regulate the sourcing of raw materials and enforces best Halal practices throughout their outlets.
TCRS serves traditionally prepared steamed, roasted, honey barbecued and soy sauce chicken as its signature products. These signature dishes are served with fluffy chicken flavoured rice cooked to perfection from a recipe passed down through the generations, originating from Hainan Island.
That’s not all you will find though. Staying true to the tagline of ‘Chicken Rice…and More’, their menu also features more than 25 other local favourites such as the Hainanese Curry Chicken, special Penang chai boay (spicy mixed vegetables), famous stuffed fish balls and Penang rojak, just to name a few. The menu includes value meals that cater for different groups, from single person meals to a feast for a group of six.
TCRS’ R&D division has continuously introduced innovative dishes over the years, to give patrons a wide selection of delectable local dishes and to ensure that they enjoy a memorable dining experience. Innovative offerings for special festive occasions such as Hari Raya Puasa, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Christmas are also introduced to celebrate various Malaysian festivities.
Of course, they would have had to develop a system to successfully sprout, the way they have in the last 17 years, not to mention, compete with other shops selling chicken rice, which are aplenty in Malaysia. How did they do it? What is their success story? We ask the brains behind TCRS to give us a sneak peek into their methods for success.
What led to the decision of focusing on chicken rice?
We wanted to focus on what we know and what we love which is why we came up with the chicken rice idea. As Malaysians, we all love the combination of chicken and rice, irrespective of age, race or gender; and chicken rice has the ability to appeal to everyone, in addition to being a healthy, complete meal.
We also wanted to provide a place where Malaysians can go and enjoy their favourite comfort food in a family-friendly environment. We envisioned a restaurant where people can go
to and have a wonderful time enjoying a truly Malaysian dish.
The traditional way of preparing chicken rice usually includes pork. How did you decide to make a traditionally non-halal dish, halal?
The decision to be a Halal-certified restaurant was never an issue for us, we are Malaysian and we want our restaurant to appeal to everyone. We feel that this traditionally Chinese dish has a mass following and there is a way to offer a halal and authentic chicken rice dish.
How did you manage to expand in this manner in such a short span of time? Please share your experience in developing such an extensive chain.
It is very impor tant that we have a good strong team behind us and this is the reason why we were able to grow for the past 17 years. Since our first restaurant, we have ensured that the team we have understands the hard work and dedication that is needed in order to give our customers good quality meals.
Aside from that, we also emphasise on quality and cleanliness as we deal with a lot of fresh vegetables and meat on a daily basis. It is imperative that the food we serve along with our servers and kitchen staffs are of exceptional quality. Our staff must care about the food they are ser ving as the experience of having a good meal goes a long way.
We believe in taking care of our team as they will then take care of our customers, and a good working environment is essential support to the growth of any company. We do not want to create a distance between us and our team, which might translate into a bad dining experience for our customers. Therefore, it is important our team has the support they require in order to give us the support we need to expand.
A successful chain often has a solid system behind it. How did you develop and maintain the system over the years?
The system that we have was created from the very beginning and we developed it from the ground up. As founders, we wanted to create a system that is workable and easily duplicated; we also wanted a system that we knew inside out, therefore we had to work out the details of the system ourselves before launching it for our team to use.
When we were developing the system, we had a lot of discussions and trials as we needed to iron out the wrinkles in the process. It was a lot of hard work but we feel it has worked out for the best as now we have almost 100 outlets within the Southeast Asia region.
How important is training in the process of building systems and expanding outlets?
Training throughout the process of building a system and expanding our chain is very important. It is through training that we are able to achieve the level of competency that we have today. We feel that with a properly trained team, we will be able to reach the objectives we have set out for ourselves, regardless of whether the objective is immediate or years down the line.
Training is also essential for the staff to learn and get to know the culture of TCRS. It through training that the staff get to know one another, as well as our operation methods, to the way we cater to our customers. We feel this creates a feeling of camaraderie as well as pride in their work and in the brand. We are unable to be in 89 outlets all at once, thus we believe it is through training that our branding and culture is ingrained in ever y member of our team, which will translate into the same wonder ful dining experience at each of our outlets.
Moving forward, what do you envision for TCRS?
Moving forward, we would like to see our brand spread all throughout the countr y. We would love to see more of our outlets in the smaller towns and cities as we want to bring our chicken rice to our customers as opposed to them coming to us. We believe there is a lot more potential for growth in the future. After all, if foreign franchisors are able to achieve up to 200 plus outlets nationwide, we don’t see how our home-grown brand cannot do the same.
As for our overseas expansion, we hope to have outlets in other countries within the Southeast Asian region. Especially in countries such as Indonesia and Thailand, where we will have an exceptionally large audience for our brand of chicken rice.