Hospitality

Why Guzman y Gomez founder Steven Marks wants fast food companies to lift their game on free range

Dominic Powell /

Founder of Mexican takeaway chain Guzman y Gomez Steven Marks has called for fast food restaurants around Australia to “fix fast food” as he believes they are “wreaking havoc” on the nation’s health.

Marks’ business, which turns over $150 million a year, operates 74 stores across Australia. Today it announced it will offer 100% free-range chicken from all these stores and claims to be the first fast food restaurant in Australia to do so. Marks is urging chief executives of other fast food companies to follow suit.

The chicken is accredited by Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia, and is just the first step, as Marks pledges the stores suppliers will be 100% sow stall free by October this year. Additionally, its beef will be 100% grass fed and added hormone free by 2017.

Marks has created a call to action through a website, fixfastfood.com.au. He has also sought public support through a Change.org petition, which currently has 1,390 supporters.

Marks’ strive for free-range fast food is something he hopes will improve animal welfare, telling SmartCompany this morning it is “the first priority for the company”.

He said the business had been working for 10 years to get to this point, with the chain’s first store opening in 2006.

“I believe that Guzman y Gomez can be an example of what fast food should be. Fast food restaurants need to have a responsibility for our guests, so we’re using our leverage to change things,” Marks says.

Taking a trip to a chicken farm a year ago, Marks saw the difference between free range and barn-bred chickens, and from that point he was committed to making the switch.

“Right now the industry is 85% barn bred, and 15% free range. There’s only this premium for free range because the demand is not there, so once people say they want it everything will change,” he says.

Marks’ push for better animal welfare has always been integral in the company, which has says has “always been ethically minded”. Guzman y Gomez goes through over 80,000 kilograms of chicken each month, and today the company is running a pro free range rally in Sydney to promote the movement.

The company has also commissioned a mural on Melbourne Central’s LaTrobe St side, hoping it will draw public attention to the movement.

The mural on the side of Melbourne Central.

The mural on the side of Melbourne Central.

“When I hired nutritionists to really look at fast food, I realised how many preservatives and hormones are in it. We really want to inspire people to change,” he says.

“I’m not saying Guzman y Gomez is perfect, but we will be relentless.”

In a YouTube video promoting Guzman y Gomez’ free-range switch, Marks says he believes other fast food companies have “put profit and greed ahead of nutrition and quality”.

“They have let standards slip for way too long. Time poor customers are paying the price, and that’s not okay,” he says.

He also calls the living conditions for animals used by other fast food chains “unnatural and downright cruel” and believes “all of this can be avoided”.

Right now, the price of free range is affecting the business, with Marks saying the switch in suppliers cost him over $1 million dollars. He hopes with enough education the industry will change, saying, “this is not some sort of marketing stunt”.

“Everything’s possible, but if you’re determined to do something you need to have a solid plan.”

Marks’ video for the movement can be seen below.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany. Email him at [email protected].

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