Boasting that they serve the best Halaal fast food in Kenya, Mc Frys have been satisfying the hungry patrons of Nairobi for nearly 20 years. Serving American-style fast food with a Kenyan twist, Mc Frys whet appetites with their ‘Chicken ‘N’ Chips’ in a variety of forms, from fried quarter, half or even full chicken served with bhajia to gorgeous sauce-soaked fries. We spoke with Aziz Abdulla Mohamed, company founder and Managing Director, to learn more about Mc Frys’ journey, and the conversation got our tummies rumbling!
Operating across Nairobi, Mc Frys offer a broad, straight-forward and delicious menu that keeps its fans coming back time and again. Providing both take-away, delivery and meals on site, Mc Frys are accessible and inclusive, with their Halaal menu including chips, bhajia, fried chicken, beef burgers, fish, sausages and soda; in other words, there’s something for everyone.
We spoke with Aziz Abdulla Mohamed, founder and Managing Director of Mc Frys, about the market that his chain finds itself operating in: “The market is quite vibrant and dynamic at the moment. There has been entry from larger, internationally active players that means investors have confidence about future growth prospects. This has increased competition in the segment for the Kenyan middle class, which has been growing.” The bulk of Mc Frys’ walk-in clientele are middle class, with the quick-service restaurants strategically located for footfall and in easy reach to hungry shoppers. The company also receives regular business from corporate clients, to whom they offer a delivery service.
We asked Aziz how Mc Frys keeps people coming back, and the answer was simple: consistency. “Consistent quality and affordable products are essential, as is the consistency of outlets: all of our outlets are branded with similar colours, and service delivery is consistent across the board. Clients have the same feel at whichever outlet they go to. This has created client loyalty to the brand.” It’s the time-tested key to running a successful chain. Of course, such consistency isn’t possible to achieve through policy and design alone – for it to be successful, it must be reflected in the staff: “Staff undergo regular in-house training and exposure. The benefits are competitive and in line with the market expectations. All positions in Mc Frys are filled from within, except for the entry level staff. This is intended to motivate the staff to be consistent and keep working hard.”
As well as training his staff, Aziz leads from the front, not above working alongside his employees at every rung in the company. He leads by example, expecting all senior staff to do the same: “I had worked for other enterprises at lower positions before the entrepreneurship bug hit. I am also the founder of Mc Frys, so I can say I have held almost every position in the business. Leading from the front inspires junior staff – the great generals lead troops into battle.”
Mc Frys employ around 120 staff members across their offices and outlets. “The staff are the greatest asset to the business,” asserts Aziz, “because unlike manufacturing, a lot of the tasks in the fast food business are still manual and require human intervention and judgement. Any shortcomings, and clients vote with their feet to the competition.”
Competition in Kenya’s fast food market is strong, and, as Aziz explained, international interest has seen it grow stronger. However, the sector itself faces many challenges; whilst the patrons and the passion for fast food is there, businesses must wrangle with the costs and red tape of operation before they can cash in on the demand: “The business is quite challenging in terms of human resources, financing and the volatile cost of inputs, as well as the business-unfriendly activities of public authorities like the county government. The sector also faces the challenge of being regulated by the government on health grounds; obesity due to poor or unhealthy diets is a strong concern and the fast food sector is a major target.”
Despite these challenges and hurdles, Aziz has persisted, staying true to his ambition whilst also remaining true to his values. As well as looking after their staff, Mc Frys also believe in fair dealings with suppliers, and in pursuing business opportunities ethically rather than cutting corners. The result is a slower, but more moral path to success: “I am a committed Muslim and believe in hard work and integrity. These principles have kept me away from bad deals, however lucrative they may seem. Success is built over time, and patience, discipline and commitment are key to achieving your objectives.”
Aziz’s approach has been rewarded, for whilst he has turned away lucrative deals that would have helped him in the short-term, the reputation and loyalty built up through fair dealings have a long-term benefit. In particular, strong bonds with partners and suppliers have proved invaluable: “It is true that for one to succeed in business, especially in fast food, reliable and committed partners come in handy. From the inception, our bankers, Paramount Bank Kenya, have been very supportive during both the good times and tough times. Finance can be a challenge for any start-up, but the bank always listened and supported our growth plans. Our suppliers of foodstuff such as potatoes, cooking oil, chicken etc. have also helped the business by giving favourable payment terms, thus assisting in managing cash flows.”
Thanks to the help and support of their suppliers and partners, and the mutually supportive Mc Frys team, Aziz’s popular ‘Chicken ‘N’ Chips’ have been able to overcome the hurdles and have enjoyed almost 20 years of delicious business. With their position in Nairobi firmly established, we asked Aziz what will come next for his company: “Given the economic slow-down due to the protracted election period in 2017, this year is one of consolidation and ensuring that the business remains stable and sustainable. However, we have some exciting developments that we are working on, including a plan to franchise throughout the country. A lot of interest has been shown on the Mc Frys brand and we are working on the legal framework.”
Another plan for Mc Frys includes an innovative new form of outlet, taking their chicken from take-away to street food! The company has become the first fast food restaurant in Kenya to operate mobile outlets, which they have created in fully equipped trucks that offer everything a Mc Frys kitchen needs. “This is quite exciting and could completely change the fast food landscape, if the public authorities give the required approvals. Right now, we are limited to private functions only because there is no law governing this innovation. But ultimately, this may be the future for Mc Frys and fast food, because geography limitations vanish.”
Exciting indeed! With Mc Frys hitting the road, their brand could soon spread throughout Kenya, both in expanding locations and in these revolutionary, game-changing trucks. Despite recent local challenges following the election, Mc Frys have managed to seize the next step in their journey: it should be an eventful few years for the local brand, and we look forward to seeing how far their new venture takes them.