Chris Caldwell, CEO at Lenard’s Chicken, came to the business early last year. He saw an opportunity to bring Lenard’s into the future and back to the Australian family meal. Chris talks to The CEO Magazine about how he’s ruling the roost, growing and reinvigorating Australia’s largest fresh chicken retailer.
A genuine love of chicken
“I had a very good understanding of the business before I came on board,” says Chris, who started his own chicken business, Love Pollo, with his wife, Sally, a couple of years ago. Lenard’s has since taken on the Love Pollo brand. “From a business perspective, there are three things that I love: I love chicken, which is why I started my own chicken business, I love franchising because I love working with passionate people and I love the urgency and energy of retail.”
Investing in the look and profitability of stores
This unbridled enthusiasm for the quality of the Lenard’s product and the performance of its franchise stores has been the catalyst for Lenard’s recent shift towards a vastly improved customer experience. “Our store design was previously quite dated and we hadn’t really changed a lot in the previous 28 years of business. We had a great product range, but it was it wasn’t showcased well,” Chris recalls. Reinvigorating the look of the Lenard’s stores has played a major role in the turnaround of the business, which had been struggling prior to Chris’ appointment due to a lack of reinvestment and greater competition from big supermarket chains.
“Our stores have a good feel now and that helps grow sales for individuals and the franchise,” says Chris. “We also employed a much larger field operations team, with retail operation consultants that support the franchise and improve sales and profitability for individual stores. We have an extremely high ratio of these business coaches to stores.” This direct investment into the Lenard’s franchisee businesses has increased the engagement of individual business owners. “It is inspiring for me. Every day is uplifting because you are working with people that have a lot of money invested in the business and they are passionate about doing a great job,” says Chris.
Serving up a great customer experience
A stronger customer focus has translated to increasing the dialogue with customers online. Lenard’s has become known for its delicious chicken-based recipes and its transparent attitude towards the freshness and quality of its chicken.
Adding to the Lenard’s product offering with ready-to-cook products — think tasty, easy burritos, chicken kiev and cordon bleu, as well as hot products —has been another recent win for the business, bringing the customers in and keeping them pleasantly surprised. The service-oriented approach has been a point of difference as well as generating exciting revenue growth. Chris says, “It’s still very much a new category for our business and we’re still developing these ideas. I can’t say too much, but what we have done so far in that space and what we will be doing over the next 12 months is so exciting. We have some massive plans.”
Lenard’s Chicken key facts
- Company name: Lenard’s Chicken
- President of BP Australasia: Chris Caldwell
- Headquarters: Brisbane, Australia
- Number of employees: 100+
- Annual turnover: $AU 100 million
- Industry: Retail & Wholesale