For many of us, a trip to fast food outlets meant burgers, fried chicken, pizzas and french fries; washed down with a fizzy drink and perhaps ice-cream. However, it is no longer bound to such items with brands like Subway foot-long sandwiches and Dunkin Donuts coming into the fray, we are now presented with more choices. How many of us would walk into a fast food outlet and order a rice dish? Sounds pretty unconventional but a Malaysian brand has done exactly that by introducing the country’s favourite ‘nasi lemak’ (coconut milk infused rice with spicy ‘sambal’ paste and various condiments) alongside local staples like porridge and curry noodles.
Based on a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) business premise, Marrybrown has outlets in more than 16 countries where 20-30% of its menu is localised to the country of operations. One of its other endeavours to cater to the diverse continent of Asia; as well as to ensure worldwide acceptance is its 100% Halal certification in all its outlets whereby its produce, ingredients, preparation equipment and storage practices do not conflict terms acceptable in Islamic law. Entering its 33rd anniversary last year, Marrybrown has built a sustainable franchise system that is able to manage a menu incorporating different cuisines - considered a rarity in the industry.
Precisely why “Something Different” is the company’s tagline. Group CEO Dato’ Joshua Liew explains why - “we believe our menu framework can resonate, especially in Asia because most families here treat eating out as a communal experience. However, the older generation might not be so accustomed to burgers and fried chicken. Our 3-generation menu (categorised as Youth, Western and Asian selections) provides diversity where stores are able to offer not only standard fast food offerings but Asian staples like rice and noodles". Rice based items was first introduced in 1986 with Nasi Marrybrown and Chicken porridge followed suit in 1990 while Curry noodles otherwise known as MB Mee Kari made its foray in 2006. Other countries are free to customise according to the demographics and they sit down with their franchisees to work out a menu that is right for the market. For example, in Maldives, fish is a mainstay for locals hence the introduction of a Tuna Burger and Curry Tuna Biryani while 30% of the menu is appopriated to vegetarian selections in India.
ADAPTING A MENU TO OPERATIONS
In a preparation kitchen that is typically equipped with electric fryers and griddles for a fast food menu, how does Marrybrown find the space to prepare its Asian delights? It was surprising when we learnt that the availability of broth, rice and noodles does not mean there are large woks with a chopping board and a pestle and mortar for spices to cook them. This is because the company has to make sure that despite its difference in menu, it still needs to ensure the preparation of such does not disrupt overall kitchen operations and traditional methods cannot be applied into a fast food kitchen, explained Dato’ Joshua. Additionally, it is not sound business sense to fit a kitchen with appliances like big woks to prepare only 20-30% of the entire menu. Therefore, it works with the right partners in terms of ingredients and supply of sauces while on the physical kitchen side, kitchen contractors like NKR Continental are trusted to suggest the best practices to prepare these Asian items in the outlet such as using noodle blanchers and stock pot stoves.
Currently serving 26 million in the 16 countries it is in, Marrybrown works to open a store somewhere every 2 weeks. This keeps the company on its toes to continuously innovate hence having a strong franchise system is crucial. Said Dato’ Joshua, “to bring the brand far and to ensure quality and consistency, franchising is a proven method. But before you start choosing franchise partners, make sure you have your tools in line - a good system can only work well if you have the rest ready. Work with professionals for your food R & D, invest in technology whenever it is necessary and outsource where it makes sense to do so. Hoarding certain exercises can be detrimental if you do not have the time or the resources”.
The bold step to incorporate contrasting items to the traditional model of fast food menus has proven beneficial to the brand. Although the Marrybrown look has gone through changes over the years, what remains is its consistent desire to grow and bring a difference to the fast food segment and the blueprint for the next 2 years is already in the pipeline. Operating out of International headquarters in Johor, Malaysia, the company has 2 other regional offices - one in Dubai and another in Chennai, India. The group continues to grow and is well on target to reach 800 stores around the world by 2018.
Marrybrown is present in the following countries:
Malaysia • Dubai • Saudi Arabia • Kuwait • India • China • Sri Lanka • Tanzania • Syria• Indonesia • Qatar • Bahrain • Maldives • Myanmar • Brunei • Thailand