The owner of Vietnamese street food business MissChu has unveiled an ambitious plan to expand the well-known brand from three to 50 sites over the next five years, less than four years after it was placed in the hands of administrators.
Owner Gabi Machado says he’s confident there’s space in the Australian food market for another 47 MissChu outlets but says he’s happy to take the significant expansion “relatively slowly” as the brand looks to find top franchisees.
Machado tells SmartCompany he believes that the current “back to basics”, health-conscious dining focus on Australians will help power the business forward.
“So we’re looking for people who are passionate about hospitality and health — and people who can handle a large volume of sales,” he says.
Machado has partnered with DC Strategy consultants to begin finding possible franchisees to head up a planned expansion from MissChu’s three Melbourne sites to 50 stores across the nation by 2023.
Machado became involved in the MissChu business, founded by serial entrepreneur Nahji Chu, in 2010 and brought the brand to Melbourne from Sydney.
The business fell on hard times, collapsing in 2014, with Machado ending up taking control of the business.
While the business survived the administration process, and Nahji Chi has been working on expanding her own new business ventures, she told SBS’s Insight program in September 2017 that “the emotions still feel raw and real”.
“It never really goes away,” she said.
There has also reportedly been legal concerns around the branding of Chu’s new business ventures. Last year, lawyers acting for Machado reportedly sought to prevent Chu from using her surname or image in promotions for her new business, claiming that these were intellectual property owned by MissChu.
Machado says the voluntary administration of the business only involved the Sydney stores, not the Melbourne outlets, and the Victorian stores had always performed well.
“The Melbourne business was always separate, and those shops have grown very well,” he says.
The three current MissChu outlets turned over a combined $8 million in revenue last financial year and there are big opportunities to expand the network, says Machado.
Machado acknowledges there has been no shortage of bad news stories about the world of franchising over the past year, but says he is working with expert consultants to make sure the business has good relationships with any franchisees it brings on board.
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“It all comes down to having that fair relationship,” he says.
The brand will focus on expanding across Victoria first and while Machado has an eye on national expansion, the next state on MissChu’s list is “still a bit unclear”.
However, he says MissChu “carries a long way” in terms of brand recognition, and the top priority for the business will be a slow, steady roll out to ensure the best chance of success.
“I think it will start relatively slowly and it will scale up over time, as things become more streamline,” he says.
MissChu is currently in conversation will several prospective “tuckshop owners”, with the company looking for operators who will be okay staying “cool and calm” when faced with fierce customer demand, according to a statement.
Having started those conversations, Machado says the business will be patient to find the right people before rapidly expanding.
“It’s really critical we protect the integrity of the brand,” he says.
“We’re certainly not rushing it — it comes down to the quality of food and the service.”