Name: Sam Koronczyk
Company: Lord of the Fries
Location: Brunswick, Victoria
Previously an animator, Sam Koronczyk never imagined he’d end up in the food industry. But when his brother Mark and sister-in-law Amanda came back from Taiwan in 2004 everything changed.
Mark and Amanda, both vegetarians, had met in Taiwan and came back to Australia with the goal of setting up a mobile food van. They got Koronczyk involved, and the trio started brainstorming ideas and names for the business.
They settled on fries because “everybody loves fries”, but realised they needed more food options to be a viable business.
Koronczyk came up with the name “Lord of the Fries”, but only took on a larger role in the business when they opened physical stores in 2005. Prior to this, the trio would go around to local festivals in the Lord of the Fries van and sell to festivalgoers.
From the outset Lord of the Fries proved a popular concept, and the trio sought physical store locations with high foot traffic. They were used to working in a small kitchen having come from a van, so this meant they could have their pick of virtually any inner-city location.
In 2011, Lord of the Fries moved to a franchise model and changed its menu to feature more vegetarian burger and hot dog options, helping its sales to increase by 35%.
The business now has eight stores, seven in Melbourne and one in Sydney and turns over approximately $10 million annually.
SmartCompany spoke to Koronczyk about the business, the strategic decisions which have led to its sustained growth and the transition from animation to hospitality.
Some people are woken each day by alarm clocks, others by roosters, but for Koronczyk it’s his young daughter who gets him out of bed.
“I’ll have a sit in bed and have a look through my emails on my phone, get up and get my daughter ready,” he says. “I take her to day care and then I come into the office.”
“It’s really just Mark, Amanda and I… We also have a bookkeeper and an operations manager. I’ll spend the day in and out of meetings. I used to spend a lot more time running the stores, but now we have an operations manager who does that.”
Now Koronczyk’s main role is to take care of the “financial side” of the business, while Mark and Amanda have their own separate portfolios, but this wasn’t always how it was.
“None of us come from a restaurant background and no one had any experience in business, so there’s been a lot of learning on the job. But it’s been beneficial having us come from different backgrounds, because we all bring different things,” he says.
Koronczyk says going into the food industry came as a “complete surprise”. When he was young he’d worked as a kitchen hand and remembers never ever wanting to work in food.
“To tell you the truth, even now when I don’t spend a lot of time working in the shops I do miss it. I liked dealing with the customers face-to-face, it wasn’t easy work, but it was good work.”
Lord of the Fries sells a variety of fries, sauces and vegetarian hotdogs and burgers, but the trio have purposefully chosen not to draw attention to the fact it’s vegetarian.
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