Rebranding gives staff an appetite for success

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2007, 12:00am

Fairwood Holdings can thank its diligent and hardworking staff for helping the restaurant chain return to its feet stronger than ever after suffering years of financial losses.

Fairwood began to experience difficulties in early 2000 and was in turmoil in 2003 when Hong Kong was ravaged by Sars. During that time, the company faced the dim prospect of closure after suffering five straight years of heavy losses.

Desperate to return to the black in an extremely competitive market, one of Hong Kong's largest fast food chains underwent a company rebranding - changing everything from the company's logo to setting up incentive schemes for staff.

The rebranding appears to have paid off and the company experienced double-digit growth in 2004, 2005 and high single-digit growth last year and this year.

'Before November 2003, the company was in big trouble. We had to reinvent ourselves to survive,' said Raymond Chan Chee-shing, executive director of Fairwood Holdings. He was a speaker at last month's Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management annual conference.

'We conducted qualitative and quantitative research to see what could be done. At that time, we were considered an old and tired brand.

'We started a system match and process control. To do this we had to communicate with our employees. They had to know the situation.'

Fairwood started what was then called a 'cultural revolution', trying to build a quality service and cleanliness culture that was severely lacking before 2003.

The company then set up a promotion and recognition system for staff. The employees who performed well were recognised and opportunities would be given for career advancement.

'We helped people believe that we were a fair company and we really appreciated the employees' efforts. We were rebuilding and boosting morale, and implementing an incentive system to motivate them, including offering some staff a small share-option scheme.'

He said the company implemented a system management and monitoring system in which an independent research company visited each outlet and reported their experience at the eatery.

'We have a monthly index where whoever is at the top of the index will be rewarded. Whoever is at the bottom will have to come to the main office and we try to solve the problem with them.'

Mr Chan said Fairwood also provided an apprenticeship programme whereby the company would recruit youngsters, starting them at a junior rank and providing them with training.

'We could move them up from the junior rank up to district management level. We also have PL [profit/loss] incentives. When a shop makes a profit, say HK$100, the chef will get HK$1, the manager will get HK$1 and the assistant manager will get 50 cents. They will enjoy profit even before the management,' he said.

'It gives them an incentive to work hard and makes them more concerned about our company's profit and loss. We also offer them share option schemes so we try to engage them.'

Faith in the company quickly returned after the company's rebranding with its share price rising to HK$12 a few months ago - almost 10 times its price in 2004.

The rebranding also included a change in the company's logo after Fairwood decided its fundamentals were strong enough to make the leap of faith.

'We hired a top designer to redesign our logo [Alan Chan Yau-kin]. His logo [the Chinese character for big] signified hope and our jump to our highest achievement,' he said. 'The logo is quite energetic. Obviously, changing a logo alone wasn't going to bring us success, but it was the kind of stimulation that our employees needed. We had another two designers come in to change the interior design [of the restaurants] giving them a more modern and trendy look. We were trying to lift ourselves and make ourselves different from Cafe de Coral and Maxim's [Fairwood's biggest rivals].

'Furthermore, we redesigned our menus to target the younger generation. We introduced spaghetti, pasta, olive oil and specially brewed coffee. We changed our cutlery and introduced healthy food,' Mr Chan said.

New menu

Fairwood serves more than 100,000 customers a day

Its 88 restaurants in Hong Kong employ about 4,250 staff

Rebranding began in November 2003

Hired designer Alan Chan for new logo design and other leading interior designers