Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Giving the burger market a good grilling
Interesting little article in the Age about the burger chain Grill’d. Not sure about the maths in tip number 2 (pretty sure 51% is greater than 49%), but regardless Grill’d has done a great service to improving burgers across Melbourne and to the recognition of men’s health issues through Movember. It takes balls as big of burgers to go out and start your own business so we tip our hats to you.
No ads. No celebrity endorsements. No meal deals. No upsizing. Grill'd Burgers wants a brand without the trimmings.
“We don't believe in loyalty programs,” says founder Simon Crowe. “We don't believe in highlighting some people to the exclusion of others. We want the business to be communal in its feel.”
So says one of the few people in history to have a burger named after them. The 'Simon Says' burger is a grilled chicken breast with avocado, bacon, salad, tomato and herbed mayo. It is also the source of some chagrin for the man who left a lucrative career as international brand manager at Foster's Group to start a healthy burger shop in Hawthorn in 2004.
There are now 51 Grill'd restaurants across Australia employing more than 500 people and generating $67 million in revenue in the past year, up 68 per cent from the year before .
“I kind of feel like the movement that is Grill'd is not me, it's our people," Crowe says, "and I sometimes feel a little embarrassed that there is a focus on me. But I know the business needs a leader. I know it needs somebody who is its spokesperson.”
It may seem strange to describe a burger franchise as a movement, but it sums up the 39-year-old Melburnian's grand plans. The dream started becoming reality one night at the pub, when friends told Crowe to put up or shut up about his plan to start a healthy burger shop.
Still, there were teething problems. A lease collapsed and Crowe remembers being racked by doubt, particularly one afternoon in January when he visited the store after a storm.
“I drove down the street to have a look at it and I was shaking in the car because there was not a single soul in the street and I thought, 'what have I done, what am I doing?'”
But Crowe was fulfilling a life-long ambition to own a business.
At Foster's, he recalls “I almost had the perfect job, [except] I was selling an Australia that I didn't believe in. I was selling a Crocodile Dundee Australia".
“If I could write my ticket I would love to take Grill'd, with the Australian character that we have, and take that overseas. That will happen, but we're not in a mad rush to do it. We've got plenty of expansion opportunity in Australia.”
He attributes success in part to not contemplating franchising from day one.
"That meant that we became expert operators... when there were operational issues and challenges we knew how to fix them and how to make sure that the business model was robust and strong.”
“So many food businesses, particularly those that are 100 per cent franchised, will often turn to consultants who say you need to get 20 or 50 or 100 sites to actually become profitable, and they stretch themselves too far, too thin.”
There are now 22 franchises and 29 company-owned Grill'd outlets. The aim is for half the restaurants to eventually be owned by franchisees who have come through a comprehensive testing process, including a psyche assessment.
“What we often find is there are people who are looking for a business opportunity only, and they tick the business acumen box and sometimes the life experience, but it's a square peg, round hole if they don't comprehend what Grill'd is.”
Crowe studied psychology at Melbourne University and sees the parallels in marketing.
"We need to understand how people think, how they might behave, what's important to them and meet their needs. So psychology and marketing are often one and the same, they're just termed differently.”
Grill'd hones in on sounds, smells, theatre, ambience, music, temperature, lighting, and service.
"The layer effect of all of those things is what's special and what's powerful, and when we get that right, it's intoxicating. It's actually almost addictive,” Crowe says.
But are Grill'd Healthy Burgers actually good for you?
Two years ago the Obesity Policy Coalition found a Vegetarian burger from Grill'd contained more fat than a Big Mac. However, senior policy adviser Jane Martin says larger portions mean more kilojoules.
“No question we have a meal-sized offer," Mr Crowe said, "and it's something we're incredibly proud of."
"It's not about only fat because if it was we'd recommend that you eat only a lettuce leaf and not anything else.”
Melanie McGrice, of diet consultancy Health Kick, says Grill'd uses more fresh food and ingredients than traditional burgers.
“If you're going to choose between the two, I would be going for a Grill'd burger," McGrice says.
She advocates eating take-away food only once a fortnight, leaving some room for improvement for the energetic Crowe, who still chomps through four burgers a week.
Crowe's 5 tips for entrepreneurs
1. Know your business at an intimate level. You need to have enough knowledge of the day-to-day operations to 'smell test' the genuine insights from the noise, and recognise any potential drift away from your vision.
2. 51 per cent business: 49 per cent people. People are your greatest asset – always. While they will no doubt be your greatest challenge, your team requires the entrepreneur to direct and steer the business agenda to give its people visibility into the future and provide them the opportunity to shine.
3. Make your brand the hero of your business and ensure that it is the filter through which all decisions are made.
4. Choose your business partners carefully and know what they bring to the table. Ideally ensure that you are getting more than only capital. A good business relationship is like a marriage – a journey; full of ups and downs but it's inter-dependent, and worth the ongoing investment in time and emotion.
5. Passion! While we applaud it in sport we often ridicule it in business. Passion can be the most engaging and most intoxicating driver of success to all of those that interact with you and your business.