Why MB Chicken believes the UK lacks a strong chicken brand | QSR Media
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Dylan Powell, vice president of International Development at MB Chicken.

Why MB Chicken believes the UK lacks a strong chicken brand

The 54-year-old Canadian fast-food chicken is opening its first restaurant in the UK.

In a contest of the number of restaurant outlets per consumer, burger-focused fast food restaurants will win over chicken chains. However, a new overseas challenger in the chicken scene is planning to win not by numbers, but by committing to focus on quality and guest experience.

Mary Brown’s Chicken, which will be known internationally as MB Chicken, is coming to the UK, opening its first restaurant in Lisburn, Northern Ireland on 21 February.

 

MB Chicken Lisburn. /MB Chicken

 

MB Chicken, which has been around for 54 years, is a Canadian-owned quick-service chicken restaurant. It first opened on the east coast of Canada in St John’s Newfoundland and has grown to over 300 restaurants which are mostly franchised.

The brand’s slogan ‘made fresh from scratch’ is the brand’s ethos, focusing on fresh and not frozen chicken. Its signature offerings include the Big Mary chicken sandwich made with succulent, hand-breaded chicken breast fillet and its spicy variant, the Spicy Big Mary, Chicken Tenders, the Tater Poutine, and more.

 

Big Mary. /MB Chicken

 

Its flagships are typically around 2,200-3,200 sq. ft. in size and are considered its showcase stores. This means they are built in high-visibility premium locations for maximum visibility and brand impact.

MB Chicken also operates what it calls a “Full Store,” which is around 1,700-3,000 sq. ft. and can include stand-alone with a drive-thru, stand-alone, In-Line and End Cap. They also have an express model, ideal for universities, airports, sports arenas, and other locations where size and speed of service are key factors.

Lisburn will be a flagship restaurant.

Dylan Powell, vice president of International Development at MB Chicken, said that from a market standpoint, the UK population is a great fit for MB Chicken’s product offering. According to their research, the UK, despite chicken rising in popularity, is still continually trumped by pizza or hamburger fast food concepts.

 

Photo from MB Chicken.

 

“The UK is lacking a strong chicken QSR that rises above the competition through a commitment to quality, taste and customer service,” Dylan explained.
 
“As a private company, we are driven by a passion for guest experience, not next quarter’s share price, so we can make decisions that build long-term stakeholder value by focusing on what matters to our guests and our Franchisee partners. The combination of exceptional partners delivering superior guest experiences is a winning one that will allow MB Chicken to become the leading chicken QSR in the UK,” he said.

One opportunity Dylan sees for the brand is to answer consumer demand for products with more value as food price inflation continues.

A report by insights firm Meaningful Vision revealed that most UK fast food chains experienced an average of 16% price increase in the second half of 2023. The UK’s Office for National Statistics reported a slowdown in the rate of price increases for the food and beverage sector by 8%, from 17% to 9% in the latter half of 2023.

“The UK is facing increased costs across the board and people are watching their discretionary spending. History has shown that customers respond by moving from casual dining to quality QSR that delivers on taste but won’t break the bank. The goal is to deliver the best value in the market by offering the best product at an affordable price,” Dylan said

Dylan said they already made a few tweaks to the menu and will adapt by listening to guests’ feedback to better meet consumer needs that are still within their brand’s framework.

“What we will never do is compromise on the size or quality of our products to gain a pricing advantage. Our signature chicken will always be brought in whole fresh from the farm and cut into nine pieces in-store — not the 12 pieces that some competitors use to stretch their product and make it look like more. Our Taters will always be cut in-store and breaded with our original breading recipe made with high protein Canadian Durum Wheat and the best quality oil — no palm oil blends… ever!” he said.

For its expansion plans, though Dylan did not say which other locations outside of Lisburn they are eyeing, they plan to open 10 restaurants this year.

Their strategy will be to partner with experienced franchisees whilst maintaining location quality, training and support.

“At this point, we have a few great franchise partners that have the experience and capacity to develop multiple locations each year. This team will form the backbone of our initial growth as we prove the concept and extend the brand, with each having a seat at the table as we develop future franchise partners and geographies,” Dylan said.

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