How Bing Boy’s Ming Ma put some Aussie zing into traditional Chinese bing
Wednesday, July 2, 2014/
Bing Boy is one of the newest fast food chains to pop up in Australia. Founded by 31-year-old Ming Ma, the business specialises in Jian Bing—a traditional crepe dish that has been served on the streets of China for centuries. Under Ma’s guidance, the Bing Boy network has recently opened its 30th store and now employs 210 employees and turns over approximately $8 million each year.
Bing Boy started about three years ago. We spent three or four months developing the concept and working with a designer before we opened for trading on June 25, 2011. It was a very good experience.
Before Bing Boy I was involved in another business called Cherry Blossom. I obviously learnt a lot from that and it was challenging. [One store of the Cherry Blossom sushi chain was placed into liquidation]. That experience helped me a lot.
In terms of investment, it was all my own money.
I don’t have any business partners but I have a great team who work closely with me, both internally and externally. For example, we have a very good designer who came up with the colours and logo for the Bing Boy stores.
We are planning to open up another 20 stores across Victoria, Brisbane and Perth in the next financial year. In the longer-term, in the next three to five years, we could have up to 100 stores.
Bing Boy has a mixture of company-owned and franchise stores.
Operating a successful franchise network is challenging and something we have to keep working on. There are three areas of franchising we focus on. The first area is initial investment. We’re trying to reduce the initial costs as much as possible for prospective franchisees.
The second area is the operations themselves. Our operations are very simple – people can be taught within three days to run a Bing Boy store. From an operational perspective, it means we can reduce any concerns from our franchisees.
The third area is training. We offer back-office, front-line and ongoing training. The three stages give the franchisees confidence that we will be there to help them all the way through.
We also run quite strict evaluations for each store on a monthly basis. Our consultants visit each store each month to check their performance and get feedback from the franchisees.
We look closely at the financial performance of the franchisees, and they report their profit and loss on a weekly basis. Although we have 30 stores, we’re still a small business and we can’t afford for things to be going badly for too long.
This year our focus will be on recruiting new franchisees. It wasn’t on our agenda for the first three years and up until earlier this year, we did not advertise at all for franchise opportunities. Franchisees would approach us or existing franchisees would take on new stores.
Recruiting new franchisees is the direction we need to focus on. It will help us grow in the long run.
Australians are adventurous and they like to try new foods. With each new store we open, there is great interest from people wanting to come and try the food.
The Bing concept is well-known in China where I come from originally. We did modify the concept a little bit in terms of flavour and taste, but the fresh delivery is very similar.
In today’s market, people are after fresh, healthy alternative food options. Bing Boy ticks all those boxes. Lately we’ve been giving away free samples to generate new customers. Giving out samples reduces the barriers for people to try the food.
Thirty-five per cent of our customers come from word-of-mouth and up to 30% or more come from people walking past the stores and making an impulse purchase.
We’re still a small company, so marketing is one challenge we’ve been working hard on through the past year. We use Facebook as one option to promote our products and businesses, but local area marketing also works well—giving out samples and putting up posters in shopping centres.
We’re also working on expanding our range of products. At the moment our menu has eight items so it is very limited. On the one hand, it makes it easy for the customer to choose, but it does mean there are limited varieties.
We plan to introduce smaller sized Bings, which will come in a box in different flavours. We’re also working on a range of homemade drinks. This is based on feedback from our customers. We survey our customers each six months to monitor their wants and needs.