Influencers & Profiles

Red Rooster chief executive Chris Green on how flipping burgers led him to managing a $480 million fast food company

Emma Koehn /

Red Rooster

Photo by Sarah Keayes.

Red Rooster has changed owners several times since the chicken chain was founded in 1972 and while the logo has stayed constant, the brand has reinvented itself to chase different fast food trends each decade. These days the chain is focused on healthier menu items and enthuses that all Australians deserve TLC – yep, that’s ‘Tender Loving Chicken’. The business was bought by Archer Capital in 2011 for $450 million and is one of three brands under Archer’s Quick Service Restaurant Holdings.

Chief executive Chris Green joined the business in 2015, as the next step in his long career in the fast food industry. Green started his career at McDonald’s as a teenager and scaled the ranks of the global restaurant chain over the following decades, including stints in Malaysia and South Africa, and time spent studying leadership at Hamburger University – the flagship McDonald’s training base in Chicago.

In the 2015-16 financial year, the Red Rooster franchise network turned over $480 million and the goal is now to use better technology in store and for deliveries. SmartCompany spoke to Green about how an after-school job flipping burgers can set you up for life as a chief executive.

There were definitely some key individuals that took an interest in my development [at McDonald’s]. It was a casual job, and I was at school. I’d say the discipline of work, the team – that was very important.

In fast food, there’s a big focus on developing people internally. You find that in the industry, you get an 80-90% success rate with internal people in the business that you develop.

It’s not easy work, it’s difficult hours and because of those things, people in that environment do well when they’re developed and coached.   

There’s no doubt that team work is very, very critical. It makes it very difficult to not have that, because it means other people have to make up the difference.

It’s almost better that someone who doesn’t want to be there is not there.

I’ve learned leadership from a number of different people, because across all the time in this space I’ve never had the same job for more than two years.

The biggest change in fast food would have to be variety. In the 80s and 90s there was not a lot of difference between countries – you built it all the same and had the same menus. Now, you have to localise.

I always say the menu takes a big part of my time – and it’s as much about where you need to go as what needs to be removed from it.

Delivery is the most amazing thing that could have happened to Red Rooster. It really has the potential to expand our customer numbers.

I personally have a lot of deliveries, and the feedback is that it’s expanding the customer base. New customers probably [make up] the majority of delivery customers.

It’s bringing in someone who is sick at home and needs food, people watching sporting events, people without cars – those customers.

We also know one of the advantages of delivery is that you know where people live and you can integrate loyalty programs with deliveries.

Where we are really stealing share from is pizza. In many towns, there’s a lot of pizza.

Usability is really important, but the big thing is also developing our own online ordering system so that you’re not having to rely on third parties.

We refer to drive-through as the “sleeping giant”it’s 50 to 70% of our sales. So we’re also investing a lot in technology for our drive-throughs – it’s the biggest part of our business.

For management, honesty is critical as well as continuous improvement. We own up to things with a focus on improvement. When I have team meetings, there’s a lot of vigorous discussion and not everyone agrees.

When managing, you’ve got to lead and you’ve got to be visible.

I’ve blocked out one or two hours in my calendar each week to talk with franchisees individually. Typically we chat about sales, how they’re tracking, how marketing campaigns are actually being rolled out.

In this business you have to bring the stores and head office together. Communication that leads to alignment is important.

You have to spend time in stores, talking to customers, talking to franchisees and making sure that what we do as a brand actually translates.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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