Marrybrown’s humble shoplot beginnings to global franchise branding

NOBODY would have imagined or thought that a brand that started in Johor Baru in 1981 would become one that all Malaysians can be proud of.

Marrybrown Fried Chicken Sdn Bhd, operator of Malaysia’s largest home-grown fast-food restaurant chain, began at a small shoplot in Jalan Wong Ah Fook.

Over the last 28 years, Marrybrown has ventured into other countries, proving that a Malaysian brand is able to make an impact in the global branding fraternity.

Presently, there are over 250 company-owned and franchised Marrybrown outlets in Malaysia, China, India, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Tanzania, Iran, Syria and Azerbaijan.

Founder and manager director Nancy Liew says the name Marrybrown simply popped into her mind when she decided to start a fast-food business.

“It is simple to pronounce, easy to remember and has an international appeal, as shown when we market the brand overseas,” she says in an interview with StarBizWeek.

Liew says unlike in the fashion or cosmetics business where brands can sometimes be a mouthful or hard to pronounce, it is a big NO in the fast-food industry.

She says most of the international fast-food brands tend to be three-syllable such as KFC, Burger King and McDonald’s, and so is Marrybrown.

Liew says when she started the fast-food business; many were sceptical her fried chicken outlets would do well or even survive.

This was because at that time, a US-based fast-food chain offering fried chicken was already a household name in Malaysia, having been in the country 10 years earlier.

“So, we have to be different. Instead of fried chicken and burgers, we also offer local favourites such as satay, nasi goreng, nasi lemak and rice porridge,” she says.

Liew says the local dishes are not only proven main attractions on the menu but are also popular among customers at its overseas outlets.

Apart from the Malaysian dishes, its franchised overseas outlets also offer favourite local dishes from the countries in which they operate, she adds.

Meanwhile, business development manager Joshua Liew says the company will open four new outlets this year, one each at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal in Sepang and Kuching’s Satok next month, Penang Times Square in March and Ivory Tower Penang in April.

Presently, there are 112 Marrybrown outlets in Malaysia, of which 80% are franchised. The overseas outlets are developed by its master franchisees.

“This year we are opening in Indonesia, Maldives, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Oman,” says Joshua.

He says the Middle East region is the most promising for franchising business and Marrybrown will increase its outlets there to between 80 and 90 by year-end from 47 now.

Joshua says being a halal Malay-sian brand helps the company convince master franchisees especially in the Middle East.

For years, customers in these countries have only known fast-food restaurants products and brands from Europe and the USA, he says.

“Feedback from our master franchisees in the Middle East shows they are more comfortable dealing with Malaysian companies as we are trustworthy and reliable,” says Joshua.

He said the next market for Marrybrown is the African continent as many big boys in the fast-food business are not keen to go there.

“But to us, the African continent is like a rough diamond waiting to be cut and polished for the shine and sparkle to emerge,” says Joshua.

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