Hog’s on the Road
Hog’s Australia’s Steakhouse announced earlier this year that it was moving into the mobile food industry after 28 years of operating exclusively as a bricks and mortar restaurant group.
While Hog’s intends to keep growing its 83-strong restaurant group whenever great opportunities arise, the operations team saw huge merit in introducing a mobile offering to complement their traditional full-service restaurants.
Enter stage right… Hog’s Express. Hog’s CEO Ross Worth, a stalwart of more than 30 years in the hospitality industry, says constant evolution in food trends means you have to be willing to embrace new initiatives and adapt to change in the hospitality business. “We’re an extremely agile company that makes decisions and acts on them quickly once the due diligence is done, so we’re efficient in adapting and taking advantage of industry trends,” says Worth.
“There’s no denying that consumers are increasingly looking for quick, accessible and inexpensive, but still good quality, options and we have a great food offering that can be prepared in a quick service environment, so developing a mobile offering was a nobrainer for us really.”
Worth says that Hog’s Express provides many benefits to the group as a whole and to individual franchisees, not least of which is having mobile trucks on the road, essentially operating as moving billboards for the business, thereby providing great brand awareness for Hog’s.
It also allows Hog’s the opportunity to attend events for their many valued sponsors, as well as a wide variety of other occasions.
“We now have opportunity to attend various happenings from sporting and cultural events to music concerts and festivals, and these could be at a small grassroots community level up to major celebratory events on the national calendar,” says Worth.
Hog’s sees another major benefit of the Express model being the ability to provide it’s very loyal fan base with quick and accessible options, that are still fresh and tasty, but able to be consumed on the run.
“The menu still features all the Hog’s favourites cooked to order, including our famous Prime Rib Steak served as the crowd-favourite steak sandwich, and other easy-to-eat staples such as burgers, wraps and ‘hog dogs’.”
The Express model is also a way for the Hog’s brand to be exposed to new markets that may not have a local area restaurant. Hog’s also sees the Express business as offering the existing franchisees of traditional restaurants an opportunity to cover their local area of influence more dynamically and ensure they have constant engagement with their community at local events, from school fetes to sports fixtures. As with all Hog’s franchisees, they will also have the grunt of the brand behind them with a proven Express menu, as well as training and marketing support.
Hog’s Express will also come in the form of a smaller static offering and over time will make an appearance in select shopping malls, service centres, airports and food markets. Hog’s is about to launch the Express model in a major shopping centre in Perth, Morley Galleria, and in the Myer Centre in the heart of Brisbane’s CBD.
Despite the emergence of Hog’s Express, the full service traditional restaurants are the lifeblood of the group, where the focus is on providing a great experience, and bringing family and people together. Such is the passion the brand evokes in franchisees that each year at the Annual Hog’s conference a ‘Pink Blood’ award is bestowed on the most loyal and committed of franchisees.
“The Hog’s philosophy has always been to offer our guests a fun and memorable dining experience in addition to great food and service, and this philosophy is personified in most of our franchisees who are all ambassadors for the Hog’s brand in their restaurants and local communities, as are the staff they employ,” says Worth.
“We hire for attitude and train for skill, so franchisees choose their staff carefully and we train them well, and they often become like a work family. They also have regular guests that they develop relationships with, so I would say that familiarity and friendship with staff and patrons is one of the great benefits of the traditional restaurant model.
“Further, very often our franchisees are also heavily involved in local schools, clubs, or charitable endeavours and have great relationships within their community as a whole.”
The restaurant model also allows franchisees to take advantage of some of the group’s more successful national marketing initiatives, like the loyalty program, Hog Squad, which offers patrons a range of benefits that have them coming back time and time again. Hog’s Squad members pay just $19.90 for lifetime membership and receive 25 per cent off their main meal every time they dine, as well as a free birthday meal.
Another initiative that is immensely popular is the ‘Kids Eat Free’ option (T&C’s apply), a popular promotion that brings repeat customers and familiar faces to the Hog’s restaurants.
In summary, there are enormous benefits to both models, it very much depends on what you hope to achieve and what works with your lifestyle best, as well as your level of experience in the hospitality industry, and the time and capital you have available.