Franchisee in Action: Lenard's

By Business Franchise Magazine

This article appeared in Issue 3#3 (March/April 2009) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand


Donna Bennett talks to Lenard’s Toowoomba franchisees about their partnership with one of Australia’s leading fresh food retailers.

Since the first store opened in Brisbane, Queensland, in 1987, Lenard’s has sold more than 400 million chickens, served more than 130 million customers and injected more than $1 billion into the Australian poultry market.  Today, Lenard’s employs more than 2,900 staff in almost 180 franchises across Australia.

Founded by master butcher Lenard Poulter, he identified a niche market for value-added chicken products, tailoring meal solutions to customers' busy lifestyles.  It soon became clear that for the continued success of the concept, dedicated management was required by people who felt as passionately about the business as Lenard did, vesting an interest in seeing the group grow and succeed.

The answer was in franchising and it has proven to be extremely successful.  Now a multi-award winning company, Lenard’s is considered a pioneer in the kitchen ready market. Their unique concept of value-adding to fresh chicken is a forerunner in the marketplace. 

As a business built from the customer’s perspective, everyone at Lenard’s is focused on providing top quality service and a rewarding shopping experience for customers.

Trevor and Katrina Harvey are no exception.  Since purchasing their Lenard’s store in June 2006, the Harveys have proven to be outstanding franchisees.

In fact, in their first year of operation, the couple was awarded Lenard’s National New Franchise Owner of the Year Award, followed by the Lenard’s National Franchise Owner of the Year Award in 2007.

Trevor says proudly, “It was pretty exciting.  We put a lot of effort in to try and do everything right so we could win it.  We put a fair emphasis on working on it and increasing growth.”

In just two years, Trevor and Katrina increased sales by 80% and customers by 55%, all due to their dedication, hard work and a “can do” attitude.

The couple recognises that the success of their franchise is due to a winning combination:  their own work ethic, together with the unique Lenard’s product.  Trevor confirms that whole chickens are delivered to Lenard’s stores each day, which are then boned and manufactured into products on-site, “It’s all made fresh in the store every day.”

The product range includes fresh whole chickens and cuts (breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings), as well as prepared meal solutions such as casseroles, stir fry dishes, kebabs, marinated and crumbed chicken, sausages and filos.

Katrina and Trevor attribute their customer growth to three main factors:  a good window display with plenty of volume to attract customers; always having someone on the counter purely to serve; and cooking the product out the front of the store.

The Harveys purchased their existing Lenard’s franchise within the Clifford Gardens Shopping Centre in Toowoomba, Queensland.  The busy Centre is a single-level sub-regional shopping centre located about 3km south-west of the Toowoomba CBD.  Major brands include Big W, Woolworths and Action Supermarket, and Lenard’s is one of around 80 specialty stores.

“We’re in probably the second biggest shopping centre in Toowoomba”, spruiks Trevor.  Open for trade six days a week, it is a welcome change from the couple’s former occupations.  “We were dairy farmers”, says Katrina.

Remaining on their 50 acre property, the Harveys used to manage another 350 acreage as a business.  “We’ve still got the land”, says Trevor, “but we’re just using it as a hobby farm now.”

Having farmed jointly for some 15 years, the couple is used to working together. Trevor points out that most of the time their partnership in business works well.  “We can always have our moments!” he laughs.

Trevor and Katrina are 36 and 32 years respectively, with a young family:  two sons aged 11 and 8 years, and a 4-year-old daughter.  In early 2006, the Harveys became concerned about their farming future, due to drought conditions and declining milk prices.

“We weren’t really looking for anything in particular”, says Trevor, “but we weren’t quite making the money that we’d like to.  We were looking for another business and we ended up at Lenard’s.”

Trevor says he and Katrina were always going to favour a franchise over an independently run business, “We were looking at buying a franchise because we could see the advantages.  We didn’t really have a retail background, so we were looking for a franchise - something that we knew would work.”

Reading the local newspaper, Trevor and Katrina had noticed that the Toowoomba Lenard’s was up for sale.  However, it wasn’t until the Harveys went on a holiday to Cairns that they realised the potential of the franchise.

Trevor explains, “We saw a Lenard’s store up there that was running really well.”  He and Katrina immediately realised there was no reason why the Toowoomba Lenard’s couldn’t be just as successful.

The Harveys purchased the Toowoomba franchise at a very affordable price, because the previous owners were struggling with the business.  “We turned it around,” says Trevor.  “It’s going really well now.”

The intense franchisee training program was for a month’s duration in Brisbane.  And, Trevor says, the support from the franchisor has been fantastic ever since:  “We had two weeks where a franchise consultant was with us when we took over.

“Then there is the constant ongoing support – just talking about problems we’ve had and having someone try to help us.  If you were in a stand alone business, you wouldn’t have that sort of support.”

Katrina adds, “You’ve definitely got support when you need it.  When the going was tough they were there to help us.”

It was particularly challenging for the Harveys during the early stages, says Katrina:  “We were working really long hours and we weren’t making very much money.  They came and told us to put on more staff - they assisted with our pricing and our mix - to help us make money.”

A representative from Lenard’s National Support Office visited the Harveys for a day and then continued to support them over the phone.  Trevor also claims that knowing what benchmarks to measure their franchise against was imperative, “If you weren’t in a franchise, you wouldn’t know what those figures should be.  You’d be just taking a guess and trying to make it work yourself.”

The Harveys realised they were trying to do too much themselves.  “Once we found staff”, says Katrina, “things began to start rolling quite well.”  The Harveys now have a staff of 20:  six full-time staff; and the remainder are casuals/juniors who mostly share the afternoon shifts.

Katrina and Trevor then communicated their sales plan to their staff, to ensure they understood exactly what the Harveys were aiming to achieve.  During store competitions in 2007, which supported their award wins, they worked on the philosophy that they needed to sell double the recommended amounts of product.  They decided to make up double and devised a plan to sell the extra product.  

Communicating an incentive scheme with their staff, employees were taken to Dreamworld and Movie World, and given weekly rewards such as scratch-it tickets and $50 vouchers.  There is also a standing Staff Member of the Month award.

Striving for a work/life balance, Trevor admits that the initial stages of establishing a franchise is hard work.  Although he and Katrina experienced long hours in the beginning, this is improving all the time:  “When we first started we didn’t have a life for the first six months.  Pretty much both of us were working in there full time, so we didn’t have a lot of personal time, but it does get better.”  

Trevor has greatly reduced his hours since the early days and Katrina now works part-time.  He explains, “I normally start around 8.30am and work through until close - about 5.30pm.  I do that nearly every day – four days a week I suppose – sometimes I have time off during the week.  Katrina works here two days a week.  When we first started, I used to start at 5.30am and work through until 7pm, but nowadays it’s not so bad.”

The couple has individual skills that they bring to their franchise.  As Trevor says, “Katrina’s really good at doing the figures, and I’m good at talking to people – well, I think I am - I do a lot of talking!”

Explaining they have many repeat and regular customers, Trevor insists their personal qualities are a huge asset, “Customer service is the thing that’s made the biggest difference to the business.  Being out there and talking to people; getting more customers and making them happy.”

They Harveys conduct minimal local advertising, preferring to dedicate funds towards free product.  Trevor finds that getting out the front of the shop, talking to people and offering them complimentary taste-testing is far more effective.

“We rely on Lenard’s marketing system and we use it to its full advantage, promoting it as much as we can.  Whenever they do a marketing campaign, we get right behind it, but we don’t spend a lot doing our own stuff.”

From 10am until 5pm each day, the franchise offers free samples.  Trevor says, “That’s just part of the way we do things.  It’s the Lenard’s way.  We’ve found it to be one of the best ways to attract customers because they are already there in the centre - you may as well use them to get them to your counter.

“I’ve tried other marketing resources but you’re marketing to people who aren’t actually there in the centre.  We can spend a lot of money on cooking product, but at least we know it’s going to people who are potential customers.  A radio ad could reach a lot of people but they wouldn’t necessarily come to our shopping centre.”

Trevor definitely recommends Lenard’s as a great business for potential franchisees.  However, he warns, “Be prepared to work hard to start with and if you do what the franchisor tells you, then you should be successful.  Really, the success comes from following the system.

“We haven’t done anything that any other franchise owner can’t do.  All you need is to use the tools that are supplied to you and to talk to other franchise owners.  If you get an idea – try it!

“Cooking is a very important part of the business and having someone at the counter who is happy and eager to speak to every person that walks past the counter.  Get out the front, say g’day and make their day!”

Trevor sums up, “Nothing is possible without a good team behind you.  With the support your team, you can achieve almost anything.”

After a well-earned two week holiday to the Sunshine Coast, the Harveys will be looking to buy their second Lenard’s franchise.  They plan to only work in that business part-time, hiring a manager to run its operations.

Trevor explains, “We’ve got a short term plan of opening up another store and then after that, only time will tell.  Hopefully it will be a success as well and then we’ll be able to make more decisions from there.”