Fairwood's tasteful upgrade whets appetite of young and trendy
A DECISION BY Fairwood Holdings to turn its fast-food shops into smoke-free zones followed a heated debate that raged in the company for nearly two months.
The move was part of a rebranding exercise aimed at attracting a young and more affluent clientele. Despite initial worries about alienating some of the chain's loyal customers, the response to the move has been mostly positive. It was test-marketed in a few Fairwood shops before being adopted throughout Hong Kong late last year.
'This was a major move in Hong Kong, where there has been a lot of debate about banning smoking,' Fairwood Holdings marketing director Perry Chung Chi-chiu said.
'In general the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We gained more customers than we lost, and they seem to be more affluent. There are more young families with children.'
The revamp was part of an overall package that included interior design, new uniforms and an improved menu. Business has been growing at a double-digit clip since the policy was instituted a year ago.
Fairwood decided to move upmarket in the face of an increasingly competitive fast-food market.
The company had been suffering from declining sales and a loss of market share for a few years. Market research indicated there were major problems with the chain's image, food quality, dining environment and customer service. Nothing short of a radical change was needed. The clown logo that had been the company's hallmark for three decades clearly had to go.
'All of our competitors were gearing up to provide better food and a better environment,' Mr Chung said.
'We wanted to gear up ourselves as well. We wanted to attract more young consumers. We decided to go for a totally new brand with a totally new experience for the consumer.'
Alan Chan and Peter Lo of Alan Chan Design were hired to create a new brand identity. Steve Leung and Yasumichi Morita of Leung and Morita Designers were hired to create a new interior design for the shops.
The team was chosen because they seemed to be 'on the same wavelength as us', Mr Chung said.
Mr Chan is one of the few Hong Kong-trained graphic designers to have achieved international recognition.
'We talked to Alan Chan first,' Mr Chung said. 'When we met him, how he dressed and what he presented to us showed he shared our thinking. It gave us confidence that he was the one who could handle such a big project.'
It was Mr Chan who suggested Mr Leung and Mr Morita handle the interior design of the revamp.
'They worked very closely together,' Mr Chung said. 'You can see a lot of brand identity in the shops. You can see it on the walls, the mirrors and in the lighting.'
Fairwood's brief was simple. 'We told them we wanted a younger, breakthrough design,' Mr Chung said. 'We wanted to share young people's attitude. Beyond that, they had complete freedom.'
A budget of $15 million was set aside for the project.
The new logo of an orange 'jumping man' was inspired by the Chinese character for big, signifying 'big happiness'. Vibrant orange colours and denim were used throughout 'to promote a modern, original character'.
New uniforms and cutlery, as well as square white plates and bowls, completed the look.
With the no-smoking policy (the first of its kind for a Chinese fast-food group in Hong Kong), came better quality coffee, with Fairwood becoming the first Chinese-style fast-food chain in the city to serve freshly brewed coffee.
Favourites on the menu such as baked pork chop with rice, curry and spaghetti bolognaise were upgraded and promoted as signature dishes. Staff were retrained to provide extra-friendly service and an extra-clean environment.
The rebranding exercise was supported by marketing and promotional activities, and coincided with the opening of a trendy flagship outlet in Causeway Bay.
The outlet at Fortune Centre, 44-48 Yun Ping Road, has a total floor area of 6,000 square feet and can seat 200 people.
'Before, our customers were mostly in their 30s and 40s,' Mr Chung said.
'Now it's more teens and early 20s to 30s. We have successfully brought down our age, and our consumers appear to be more affluent.'