Mary Brown’s Chicken, a Canadian national fast-food chain, has plans to aggressively expand the brand’s footprint across the country.
Demis Fant, Vice President of Real Estate & Construction for the company, said there are 188 locations currently in Canada and growing quite quickly.
“We’re in every province except Quebec and PEI but by the end of the year we’ll be in PEI as well. This year we’ve opened 10 and are in the process of opening another 22” said Fant.
From a real estate perspective, Mary Brown’s looks for locations that can accommodate a drive-thru.
“That’s a big piece for us, especially for now with what’s been going on in the past year and a half. In general we’ve always been big with drive-thrus. High visibility, with a drive-thru or not, is a big plus. But drive-thru would be the ideal store for us.”
Fant said the company has experienced constant growth over the past 52 years. Over the past two years, it’s been growing consistently and growing substantially.
“Whether it’s existing franchisees wanting to grow their system, new franchisees wanting to get into the space, but we’ve been pushing really hard in real estate in looking for sites,” said Fant.
“We’ve looked at various ways to find real estate and various types of real estate. We’re again looking across Canada. We’re not stymied by specific-only areas. We know that we have the product, and we have the service and we have the staff and the hospitality. We know it’s going to work regardless of where we are. We have that benefit of having the background and the team behind us so we can work anywhere.”
Fant said there’s no reason within Canada that the company can’t grow to over 500 locations eventually.
“We have lots of room to grow. Lots of places to fill in. We’re looking at different layouts as well which might give us the opportunity to grow in non-traditional as well. We’re also partnering with a kitchen consultant out of the US to look at various options, layouts, efficiencies so that we can fit more areas and also make the whole system a little bit more efficient where we can,” said Fant.
“But we’re always looking for innovation in general so that we can always grow the volume of the stores.” Fant said one of the big trends coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that customers are going to be looking for more of an experience.
“So you do want to keep the store design and experience updated. It’s the right time I think coming out of this and we’re in a good position,” he said.
The brand was founded in 1969 by Mary Brown in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador.
“It’s a huge, huge brand in Newfoundland. It’s very well known throughout the Newfoundland community. That is where we’ve grown quite strongly over the years and now as the brand has grown and the connection grows we’re able to move it into all of Canada essentially,” said Fant.
Mary Brown’s has developed its very own proprietary cookers. Rather than pressure fried, which is the industry standard, the company said its cookers use heat to seal in juiciness and flavour and give its chicken its delicious natural golden colour.
Here’s what the company says on its website about how it started: “It was 1969. While the world watched the first man walk on the moon, we celebrated the first Guest walking through our doors in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador. Needless to say, it was a giant leap for chicken. Word quickly spread and stores opened across the province. It soon became the chicken of choice. Iconic even. It was time to, pardon the pun, spread our wings. By 1972, the secret of Mary Brown’s tantalizing chicken was out. Two stores opened in Ontario that year in Oshawa and Mississauga. From there, growth expanded west to Alberta, back east to the Maritimes, out to the Prairies and more recently, all the way to British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.”
Fant said one of the things that has helped the brand grow in the last couple of years is the introduction of spicy chicken which is huge in the market right now.
“We also have the pick up app that came out earlier this year which brings us into the digital market. We also have the pick up lockers where people can walk up to the lockers rather than walk up to the counter, which we’re going to start using in July with our first store,” said Fant.
“The one big piece for us having started in Newfoundland is hospitality first of all but also the fact that we have the chicken not frozen. It’s fresh. When people taste the chicken obviously it’s a different quality, different product and it is the basis for how we’re able to grow at this kind of rate. Beside the team that we have, the product that we have allows us to grow.”