Chile is a small South American country which is known for its popular Chilean Sandwiches. Using a traditional recipe handed down from generation to generation, Astoria’s now-famous Chilean Sandwich has become a marketing sensation in their home country. Their customers craved the extra portions found in the traditional Chilean Sandwich, which featured the country’s finest beef, melted cheese, fresh avocado, and tomatoes, topped with a special Astoria dressing. In this interview Mr. Bruno Veyre, CEO – Asia Pacific Chilean Company, shares about Astoria’s steady growth.
We opened our first restaurant in Chile in 2009, one year after that we were hit by an earthquake that destroyed the entire city. We opened again within the next six months in a different area. One year later, we opened our second branch, after two years we opened four branches. And after four years, we were running around seven branches. Managing around 200 employees was challenging, as labour laws were very protective and strict. That is when we decided to pass over operations to franchisees. So we took our seven restaurants, and standardised our process and created software to be able to sell it to our franchisees. We changed the business model from 200 employees to 5 people.
We are growing ever since and we are now over 122 locations in Chile. We are not operating anything, but we focus on franchising. Since Chile is a small country with over 17 million population and we have already covered it, we are looking to expand further into Southeast Asia, China, and others under the master franchise business model. I have been traveling the world with a chef trying to find potential investors for the brand. As a result we have recently opened in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. We have also signed four dark kitchens in Dubai.
This is typical Chile food. It looks like a burger but it is not. During my travel, I found that no brand sells this authentic food. Hence we decided to go ahead with this popular food choice. Moreover, we are flexible with our food flavour to suit the regional and cultural demands.
The company is from my city, it has been there for over 100 yrs. But this an old company that went to bankruptcy in 2005. Therefore, the trademark was not owned by anybody. So I got the trademark for the company name. As soon as we opened, everybody was familiar with the name and wanted to buy from us.
We have recently revised our logo with a team from California. Since our target market is changing we needed to update our logo. We are trying to improve our branding by updating our technology as well.
We have small and big chains that are our competitors. Our biggest difference is that we have successfully eliminated plastic completely from our brand. We support sustainability and save costs for our franchisees. In addition, this is very attractive for the younger generation and the environmentally conscious market.
Moreover, all our food is freshly prepared and handmade. This is huge difference compared to what our competitors are offering.
As a partner, we are looking for someone who understands the franchise business. They must not rush the process, we want someone who takes a step by step approach and we make sure in each step we develop them and we are happy with them.
On an average, the standard investment takes about 18months to break even.
I would say it was the earthquake. It was the entire country destroyed for months. We had insurance, but even the insurance companies were collapsing. But luckily we were paid from the insurance so we bounced back. My experience and entrepreneurial spirit helped me overcome all the challenges in this industry.
Even during Covid, when all our branches were closed, we did not charge them any royalties. We value long term relationships with our franchisees and helped them bounce back with delivery apps. And this has helped us manage to emerge out successfully.
Saudi Arabia is our best achievement right now. We invested quite a bit and everyone thought I was crazy to go so far for investors. But we are very successful in our market right now. We have also opened in Singapore. And we are looking to soon venture to Dubai as well.
Signing a contract with Saudi Arabia is our best so far.
This pandemic is changing many aspects of the business. Many competitors as out of business and hence many good locations are now available. In the next 5 years, is more towards a digital way of ordering. The delivery app is already changing the industry. We are now thinking about how we can deliver a good experience for our customers.
To the franchise industry, don’t miss your target market and listen to how they think and react. Because the target market is changing so fast, so we might get stuck we are not constantly changing to their demands. Keep tracking the purchasing behaviour of the target market. This is an active market that is changing every day. As long as you follow them, you will be able to succeed in the market.
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