Entrepreneurship can be risky; you might find it difficult to quit and if you’re too good at it you could see yourself spending the rest of your career raising business after business.
The latter is the case for AK Mansoor, Founder and Chairman of international quick service restaurant brand Chicking. After establishing successful ventures within the United Arab Emirates – Al Bayan Cargo in 1994 and Al Bayan Water in 2000 – his next career move was the creation of a QSR offering fried chicken.
“I was always passionate about exploring new food,” says Mr Mansoor. “Of course, it was my dream to create a world-renowned food service or restaurant brand. Eventually, I decided to pursue my dream and, working from scratch, I started the first Chicking store in Dubai in 2000.”
Chicking’s success is a result of several factors, including its total commitment to providing halal products.
Though the chain provides a variety of products beyond fried chicken, including grilled chicken, peri-peri chicken, burgers, wraps, pizza, desserts and more, Chicking ensures adherence to the various halal guidelines of every region in which it operates.
While halal certification was essential for the UAE market, it continues to offer Chicking a unique position from which to approach the market elsewhere.
“This is an advantage that we have over our competitors,” Mr Mansoor explains.
“Nowadays, the entirety of the global market is focusing more towards halal products. Our customers are asking specifically for halal products and we’re happy to provide that globally, in all our outlets.”
“When we select franchise candidates, we give them strict instructions that they should follow the halal guidelines of their local authority. We maintain 100 adherence to halal certification in any part of the world.”
“Chicking is now in the global expansion stage where we’re coming into more countries and more continents,” Mr Mansoor says.
“As part of that plan, we are concentrating on the franchise segment. Our global franchise management division was created solely to manage Chicking’s global agenda. We offer a low investment cost to prospective franchisees and high ROI compared with competitors Chicking has a very transparent franchise system globally.”
Today, the franchise consists of more than 150 outlets, spread out across 17 countries, including Oman, Morocco, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, the Maldives and India.
Most recently, Chicking has opened in Australia and New Zealand, and in the future it hopes to develop a stronger presence on the European and African continents.
“We’re already in countries such as the UK, the Netherlands and Morocco, and by the end of 2019 we will expand to 12 more countries in Europe, Central Asia and Africa,” says Mr Mansoor.
While other QSR brands have dabbled in halal products, it has been largely restricted to certain countries or to just a fraction of their respective menus. Chicking has no such selectivity, introducing their menus around the world and able to accommodate anyone requiring a halal diet.
“We’re seeking entry into new markets where we’re directly competing with major brands in the QSR segment,” explains Mr Mansoor.
“Customers’ expectations are high, and we need to gain their confidence, since they see Chicking as a new brand. However, we have been gaining the confidence of customers in those new markets.”
Similar small-yet-growing franchises are appearing across the world, representing potential competition in the halal fast-food niche. To differentiate itself, Chicking has a diverse menu with something for everyone, and dishes influenced by Mexican, American and Italian cuisines.
But one of Chicking’s greatest advantages in fending off competition in this sector is its partnerships with the world’s two largest beverage manufacturers.
“Coca-Cola and Pepsi are important supplements in our business, and their cooperation and support in the market helps us create our brand image in the mind of the customers,” says Mr Mansoor.
“We have given the flexibility to our global franchise partners to choose Coca-Cola or Pepsi as the main beverage supplier for their menu. The support they provide in each market is important to us.”
And Chicking’s excellent customer service is essential. Mr Mansoor says that, as a contrast to the more impersonal, factory-line service of larger QSRs, he wants Chicking to be a place where customers feel welcome.
“We always treat our customers as guests and we want to be a second home for our guests,” he explains.
“We’re aware the customers are spending their hard-earned money to consume our product and it is therefore our responsibility to provide value for money. The whole Chicking family believes in that. We connect with our customers by providing healthy products and homely service.”
Bringing chicking to the world
AK Mansoor has a vision of 1,000 Chicking stores globally by 2025. Here are the markets where it is already present:
- United Kingdom
- Ivory Coast
- Saudi Arabia
- New Zealand
With plans to operate 1,000 restaurants across 70 countries by 2025, the challenge remains to ensure consistently excellent service worldwide. “In the QSR segment, the customers’ expectations are always high, and they demand instant gratification” says Mr Mansoor.
“In this segment, we must always be alert to ensure the quality of the product and service. It’s unlike any other business.”
To help maintain its high standards of food and service, Mr Mansoor has created an impressive internal culture, offering training, support and new opportunities to employees. Longer-serving employees are encouraged to assume leadership responsibilities, providing upward mobility as a reward for performance.
“The ability to work in a team is the first requirement to working at Chicking.”
In turn, the company draws on the expertise of its staff; decision-making is a collective process, forming what Mr Mansoor refers to as “participative management”. “The ability to work in a team is the first requirement to working at Chicking, since we’re aiming for new heights every day,” he says.
“Each team member must be willing to learn and adapt to a changing work environment. Chicking welcomes energetic and ambitious people, and team members have ample opportunities here, depending on their performance. The sky is the limit for them.”