Family restaurant Hog’s Australia is looking at hitting the road after a concert from pop icon Adele showed it food trucks might be a winner for customers.
The Hog’s business is in its 28th year of operation in Australia, having established a network of well-known family restaurants focusing on steaks and burgers. This year it is relaunching from Hog’s Breath Cafe to Hog’s Australia, with chief executive Ross Worth saying in true Aussie tradition, everyone was shortening the brand’s name anyway.
“It’s the Australian nature where you short-name everything … and our traditional customer just calls it Hog’s,” he says.
The family restaurant has quietly tested out its new product on wheels, the “Hog’s Express” food model, in Perth over the past month, and after a successful session at the Adele concert at Domain Stadium, Worth says the mobile food model has legs.
“We had our most significant launch there, and we had the quick service menu with Hog’s burgers,” Worth says.
Worth says the van traded for two hours prior to the show and half an hour after, clearing 600 customers over that time, each with an average spend of $14 — coming in at around $8,400 for less than three hours of trade.
After more than a quarter of a century in operation, the Hog’s Australia business is realising “technology is taking over our lives”, says Worth, and that it needs a new way to capture customers. While inventive food-delivery models are flavour of the month, the Hog’s business has decided to go directly to where people gather for special events.
“We’re always on the go — our core customer base — and thought it would be great if they could have Hog’s on the go, something a little bit quicker to fit in with the fast pace society that we’re living in,” Worth says.
The challenges for the hospitality and food retail sectors are big in Australia; many have reported feeling the pain over high rents and changing customer preferences for some time now. A report from SV Partners in March highlighted that businesses in the hospitality and food space are particularly vulnerable to serious financial trouble.
This landscape is prompting other quick service brands to work up inventive ways to get better bang for buck.
Just last week Red Rooster chief executive Chris Green told SmartCompany the chain’s new small Reggies’ store format was designed to exploit the chicken chain’s delivery capabilities, while offering a franchise model with a much lower set-up cost.
Worth says the Hog’s Express model is a much more nimble option than the company’s traditional restaurant format.
“There’s no doubt that the set-up costs will be substantially less than the full service dining experience. A restaurant is roughly 400 square metres, compared with operating out of a food truck,” he says.
While there are no formal plans to get a certain number of Hog’s Express vehicles on the road, Worth says the option will be opened up to existing franchisees first, before the general public will be able to jump on board.
“There’s also the part that Hog’s Express isn’t just a mobile unit — we’re currently dealing with a couple of proposed sites — shopping centre kiosk style,” he adds.