The largest Canadian quick serve chicken restaurant franchise is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year
with a new look and a dramatic push for expansion – in Canada and beyond.
Could this be the opportunity you’ve been looking for?
Mary Brown’s Chicken & Taters, established in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador in 1969, currently has about 160 stores coast-to-coast across Canada, including several in Walmart locations.
It’s one of Canada’s fastest-growing franchises.
“The brand was named to honour Mary Canadian chicken franchise celebrates five decades of Made Fresh Food Brown, the woman behind our southern chicken recipe,” explains Vice-President of Franchise Development, Safiah Arooz, in a recent interview with Canadian Franchising.
Gregory Roberts, a Newfoundlandborn entrepreneur, purchased the brand in 2007. Under his leadership, Mary Brown’s store count has more than doubled, Arooz notes, and it’s still going strong. Currently, Franchisees make up about 70% of the stores’ ownership throughout the country, with many Franchisees being multi-unit operators.
The balance of the stores is corporate owned. “Our goal is to surpass 200 stores by 2020,” Arooz says, “and we’re well on our way to achieving that target.” The brand is also geared for international expansion.
After five decades of perfecting their methodologies, menu and approach to Guest service, Mary Brown’s is now set to expand into Latin America, the United Kingdom, the Middle East and beyond. The franchise’s strategy is to begin its global expansion by opening locations in two or three countries within one larger,
While it will still concentrate on its core menu of Chicken and Taters, the restaurant will customize dipping sauces and other items to accommodate local palettes.
Arooz, who came over from another popular restaurant franchise, has years of experience in franchise development and is now in charge of both domestic and international franchise development for Mary Brown’s.
She says Mary Brown’s is looking for hands-on owner/operators who are dedicated to preparing and serving real, fresh, comfort food that is made with care in-store. Arooz says there is room to grow across all provinces, with Ontario and British Columbia being the hottest markets.
Industry experience is not mandatory, Arooz notes, but the right attitude and commitment to community is important.
For Mary Brown’s, authentic hospitality is a prerequisite in all stores, in keeping with the brand’s east coast roots. Mary Brown’s maintains the highest standards for its Franchisees, but at the same time, is quick to credit them with much of the brand’s success.
“Without our Franchisees, who are our hands-on owner/operators, we would not be where we are today,” she says. “They live and breathe our brand.”
That sentiment was echoed by Mary Brown’s President and COO, Hadi Chahin, who credits Franchisees for
Mary Brown’s longevity in Canada. “They are at the heart of our brand and bring the brand to life in communities across Canada,” he said in a recent press release.
The Mary Brown’s Difference
The main difference between Mary Brown’s and its competitors, Arooz notes, is the superiority of Mary Brown’s product. Chicken is delivered to each store whole and fresh and then is marinated, hand cut and hand breaded.
Similarly, Taters are handcrafted from farm fresh Canadian potatoes – hand cut and hand breaded in each store. “When we speak to people at the trade shows who haven’t tried Mary Brown’s and they ask what’s good about our product and ask us more about it, we tell them to try it and come talk to us after.”
She adds, “When they see us again, they’re converted!” She explains further, “It’s definitely the product. Our menu is real comfort food. There’s nothing else quite like it!”
All new Mary Brown’s Franchisees undergo a comprehensive three week mandatory training session in Newfoundland, providing both the necessary skills as well as an understanding of the culture that is at the
heart of the brand. Prior to that training, Franchisees must complete a training curriculum available through Learn MB, Mary Brown’s online training portal.
Courses cover the basics of Guest service and regulated compliance training. Franchisees learn all aspects of running a business and must complete a written test at the end of the program. Once that is done, Franchisees return to their home base and complete additional courses online before their store opens.
Leading up to the 50th anniversary of the brand this year, Mary Brown’s underwent a rebranding effort that saw the logo reinvigorated with new colours, an update for Mary herself and an exciting modernization of store design. The goal is to expand audience appeal and to relay that Mary Brown’s is a premium
Canadian brand. Each store across the country features a tribute to St. John’s, the brand’s hometown, with a mural of the city’s colourful “jelly bean” houses – perfect for Instagram posts by the key
millennial target audience.
Another event held for the 50th anniversary is a national contest with Grand Prize Trips to St. John’s. An
Anniversary Party is planned in the city with attendance expected by celebrities, dignitaries, all corporate staff and of course, Franchisees.
As for what the next 50 years holds, Chahin says it will involve looking toward the future while honouring the
past. “More growth and more innovation are coming for sure, but we won’t lose sight of what makes Mary Brown’s special,” he says. “A delicious handcrafted menu andgenuine hospitality are who we are – and
always will be.”
With solid expansion plans, the next 50 years promises to be as lucrative for the Canadian brand as the first 50.
Franchisees’ Choice Award Winner for the ninth year in a row by Canadian
Franchise Association50 Best Managed Companies in Canada by Deloitte Canada and Canadian