Kuku Foods East Africa Holdings, the region’s franchisee of world-renowned KFC outlets, targets improved customer satisfaction and market saturation off the back of a rapid four year evolution
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
Tantalising taste buds across East Africa for the best part of five years, Kuku Foods East Africa Holdings (KFEAH) has become one of the region’s most sought-after fast food providers, but the success of the Company is attributed every bit as much to the internal culture of the business as it is to the food products themselves.
This fact is all the more significant when considering that the food products in question are world-renowned KFC items, with KFEAH thriving as the brand’s holding company in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya for the duration of its tenure.
The privately-owned entity has flourished since inception in 2013 off the back of products including chicken meals, burgers, twisters and Krushers, compounded by a shareholding compliment that includes African business environment experience totalling more than 70 years.
“Kuku Foods’ success has been based on its biggest asset which is our people,” affirms the Group’s Managing Director, Derrick Van Houten. “We carefully selected our people, and trained them to be best-in-class. And, together with a robust business plan which the leadership team has diligently executed, Kuku Foods has become a leader in innovation and brand delivery.”
Being a multi-territory franchisee inevitably comes with certain challenges, but by having such entrepreneurial and experienced personnel onboard, the business has been able to problem solve accordingly in order to stake its claim as a leader in numerous markets.
“This in turn has created an innovative mindset within our team, and we have nurtured this and it has become a real strength,” Van Houten continues. “I further believe that our team is extremely nimble, and this creates an advantage of beating our competitors and ensures that we remain ahead of the pack.”
Accessible and sustainable
While the first outlet opening occurred in 2013, the initial concept was fostered two years previously in August, 2011, when the restaurant at Junction Mall in Nairobi, Kenya was announced.
More than two years of planning, logistical research, supply chain optimisation and YUM audit approvals bridged the two milestones, but were essential in paving the way for the successful evolution that has occurred ever since.
“We grew slowly in the beginning ensuring we provided the best customer experience in terms of quality and customer service,” Van Houten recalls. “Subsequently, Uganda and Tanzania’s first restaurants opened in 2013 and 2014 respectively, which laid the foundation for more rapid expansion.”
By the end of 2017, KFEAH will boast as many as 32 restaurants across the region with Kenya comprising the largest ratio of the Company’s portfolio.
And with each new opening, and as the Company’s speed of development quickens, so too does the level of innovation and entrepreneurship showcased within the outlets.
“Our product development team constantly come up with new ideas,” Van Houten says. “We have discovered two critical success routes with new products: firstly do not try and have local dishes on a KFC menu; and secondly, ensure that the approved products used in the recipe are accessible and sustainable for our markets.”
The earmarked total of 32 restaurants may seem arbitrary but becomes a whole lot more impressive and pertinent when considering that the 29th instalment is being built at present in July. A further three scheduled for the remaining five months of the year epitomises how quickly and effectively the Company can mobilise and capitalise on new opportunities when such a lucrative possibility presents itself.
Van Houten explains: “When it comes to identifying new trade zones, the team will take a long-term view, maybe five years, and we carefully map out where our consumer profile can be identified. It must then fit our supply chain expectations as well as our ability to manage the operational skills for that particular area.”
Maximum returns on investment
Complicating the decision-making process further is the need to monitor continuously fluctuating trends and consumer requirements; not only influencing where KFEAH should open an outlet, but what features and functions should be included within each new addition.
The most significant trend being adapted and adhered to at present is in the realm of convenience, as Van Houten details.
“The implementation of our regional delivery service has been an unbelievable success in meeting this need. Kenya alone does around 20,000 deliveries a month,” he notes. “We have shared our overall vision with our board, who support our growth strategy and provide the necessary capital to execute these kinds of plans.
“Obviously cash is not a never-ending open tap, and we therefore have to carefully select our expansion plans and ensure we receive maximum returns on each investment.”
Numerous first-in-class technologies have been introduced across KFEAH’s portfolio as a consequence of this tactic; all with a view of assisting the overall management of the business and in enhancing levels of convenience for the customer.
“One example is our internally developed maintenance tracker which tracks and flags outstanding maintenance issues in the restaurants,” the MD continues. “Meanwhile, YUM continuously looks for more efficient ways of serving our customers, and a good example here is our new velocity fryers which filter the oil a lot more efficiently, discarding any impurities immediately.
“Other capital investment strategies incorporate each of our restaurants being upgraded every five years in accordance with our franchise agreement; POS integration within our finance, customer service, and sales forecasting systems; and a general plan to reach 40 outlets by the end of 2018.”
The best KFC on the continent
And across each of these outlets, and in charge of leveraging each new innovation and technology is a host of skilled personnel - from management down to shop floor - who ensure responsible sustainability in a region that depends on it.
“We have a rigorous selection process. From then on though, each individual employee has their own personal growth plan which is continuously managed,” Van Houten details. “Our policy is only to promote from within, and we have some amazing stories around this. Our company culture has ensured team members are caught up in the success of our business story which results in very few people leaving our group.”
Such an ethos becomes even more commendable when taking into account KFEAH’s localisation focus, with less than one percent of the 900-strong workforce listed as expats. The same philosophy is then applied throughout the Company’s supply chain where localisation is again given paramount importance in order to instil long-term regional sustainability into the fabric of the business.
Van Houten continues: “Supply chain in Africa is an exceptional challenge. To localise a product and to ensure that YUM’s audit procedures are complied with, it can take years. We therefore focus a lot of our attention on large stock items such as chicken which are local products and make sure they form a large part of our menu requirements.
“Ultimately, we manage the complete process from ordering the products worldwide, clearing, warehousing and distribution to each restaurant’s front door.”
Corporate social responsibility projects such as donations to wildlife funds, social fun runs, school activities and its exciting, upcoming Add Hope programme further embed the business into the local communities; extending the family feel that has been embedded into an organisation which can now look forward to even more concerted growth in the future.
Van Houten concludes: “Our team operates like a family. We work at a fast pace, we execute with 100 percent targets in mind and we are constantly thinking of ways to please our customer better.
“My dream from here is to grow our people even more, to execute our growth plans for our shareholders, and to be the best KFC on the continent; a mission we have already achieved in 2015 by winning the franchisee of the year award from YUM.”