How Oporto chief Craig Tozer is using technology to steer the $200 million chicken chain into its next stage of growth

Oporto CEO Craig Tozer. Source: Supplied.

Chicken chain Oporto was founded by Portuguese expat Antonio Cerqueria, who opened a chicken shop at Bondi Beach in 1986 and spent the next two decades seducing Sydneysiders with his famous chilli sauce. According to this potted history of the brand, he made 1000 litres of it in 1995.

The chain is now operated by Quick Service Restaurant Holdings, an Archer Capital company that also holds Red Rooster and Chicken Treat. The business is looking to build upon the reach Oporto’s reach with new technology, after the chain generated $200 million in revenue in 2016 from more than 140 outlets. 

Chief executive Craig Tozer came to the chain through Archer and has had stints at J.P. Morgan and Rothschild. He’s using experience from a career in investment banking to steer Oporto towards its next phase of growth. This has involved inviting Cerqueria back into the operation as a consultant, especially on that all important sauce recipe.

SmartCompany spoke to Tozer about how to write a business plan for a fast food network and the importance of an effective taste-testing process.

I came into Oporto because the brand had a huge amount opportunity and I’ve always enjoyed working with family based businesses. Oporto is one of the most successful ones.

I think family businesses have differentiating factors around their people. We have long-term franchisees and supplies; “al famiglia” – that [name] is something I’ve brought back in.

I’m very open with franchisees, very approachable. On the flip side, I set very high standards and expectations. I always find out what’s stopping them from performing so that they’re able to achieve what they need.

I see it a lot, when people are unable to do their jobs, and I ask people: “What do you do, what could you do, what’s stopping you doing it?” Then you often have people, often in digital areas, that have more potential that people don’t know about

Together with my team, I wrote the strategy on all three brands [that QSRH operates, including Red Rooster and Chicken Treat] and our strategy for Oporto is to be “digitally focused”, with customer centric in the approach, around “what does the customer actually want?”

At the moment, Oporto is looking at a range of digital mediums. We’ve got a loyalty app, and we’re looking at doing delivery.

One of the ideas that I came up with is around how we support franchisees where rental costs are very high. One way is to make smaller stores in metro areas. We’ve reduced our construction costs and we have three stores in that format.

Antonio Cerqueria is a wonderful businessman; we brought him back to make sure the business was exactly the way it should have been. The first part of this is the Portuguese chicken, and the original chilli sauce – making sure that was correct, including taste tests.

On the people side, he gave me a lot of insight into how to deal with franchisees. We consult with a franchisee advisory committee – it’s more about the people involved and willingness to work with them. Ultimately for us and Oporto my ambition was to achieve its potential, to enable us live up to his expectations – including the best Portuguese chicken in Australia.

I’ve owned businesses with my twin brother since I was 21. I’ve developed my own career, and these things [like the Oporto role] have come up earlier than I expected.

I think the most important thing in a family business is to be objective and honest with each other about your strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you always play to your strengths and hire people where you have weaknesses.

If you treat people well, a family business is often people’s favourite places to work.

For us, the number one metric is customer feedback. Feedback on products is one part of that. For me internally it’s also from franchisees and ensuring people know what they need to do, when and how – inspiring people to achieve goals and objectives.

We’re looking at international expansion in the next 12 months. Our products are a very good fit [for overseas] – we differentiate ourselves on taste, and Portuguese chicken is in high demand.

My main advice in business is to think big and be ambitious. Have a very clear strategy on where you’re going to win and how you’re going to get there. Every business should have a business plan, key performance indicators, and understand very clearly what constitutes success for you.

I was always inspired by various business people – I worked a lot with Coopers Brewery and the Rothschild family. All these things have been brought in along with Antonio’s philosophies.

Our business is a people business at the end of the day.


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