EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Towards mutual growth: how the 4FINGERS-Mad Mex partnership broke past overseas expansion barriers

Brand execs elaborate on the value of knowledge sharing between their chains.

It was a partnership borne out of a mutual need. 

Mad Mex Fresh Mexican Grill, which was founded in Sydney in 2007 and now has over 50 locations around Australia, saw a strong demand for healthy Mexican food in Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, 4FINGERS, which started in 2009 and quickly established a foothold in the region with outlets in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, wants to become an operator of food and beverage brands in the Asia-Pacific region.

Near the end of 2018, the Korean fried chicken chain announced that it has acquired a 50% stake in the Mexican chain, in a deal that aims to expand the reach of both brands in the Asia-Pacific.

Together, the partnership is a “wonderful crossover” that allowed both brands to power through the initial hurdles of overseas expansion and realize their global potential. 

With the deal in place, 4FINGERS plans to establish Mad Mex’s presence in Southeast Asia, including initial plans to expand in Singapore and Malaysia for the next 12 months. At the same time, Mad Mex is lending its more than ten years’ experience to grow its 4FINGERS’ network in Australia and New Zealand. 4FINGERS also currently has plans of going further into new territories, with a restaurant in Los Angeles, California set to launch in March or April this year.

At the recently-concluded QSR Media Asia Conference and Awards 2019, Mad Mex Fresh Mexican Grill Chief Executive Officer Clovis Young spoke about the benefits that the partnership has granted his brand. “There's a big opportunity for Mexican food in Asia, but there were barriers to entry. The things that I didn't know and we did not know around this around this marketplace. So find a partner that can help us execute in this region was critical. That was my key criteria.”

“And it's worked out to a wonderful crossover. We have a lot of knowledge in Australia. So even in the two months or three months since we've done the deal we’ve been sharing off our resources, whether it's leasing resources, supply chain resources, so hopefully 4FINGERS benefit in Australia is comparable to the benefit we're going to get up in this region.”

For instance, sharing Mad Mex’s knowledge and experience in the region gave the 4FINGERS brand perspective in setting up more strategic locations in Australia. Young pointed out that as the country spans almost 4,000 kilometres from east to west, it was necessary for new outlets to not only be in good locations demographically, but also to be in proximity with one another so as to create constant touch points.

Dave Acton, Chief Executive Officer of 4FINGERS, told the conference, “We went to Australia before we ever knew Mad Mex. We opened our first three outlets in Australia in 2017. We've actually acquired three more that are under construction right now.”

“There’s great opportunity for us to leverage from the locals, and try and understand those market insights a lot better.”

Compelling synergy in values
Ultimately, it was the brands’ shared values that lay at the heart of the relationship.

Acton said he found the compelling synergy in values between Mad Mex and 4FINGERS, and it played a huge part in making the partnership come together. Among what he considers as a differentiator for 4FINGERS in the QSR space is the brand’s cheeky and rebellious nature, in doing things a little differently and doing so with a sense of humor.

“We try to be authentic, true to our values through our our problem statements that are brand statements. We try and deliver on what we're what we're offering. And we're committed as much as we can to personal brand products, as well as our people, our staff, or our assets that we have on the team are very committed to making sure that they're well taken care of,” he said.

Young recognized the same core values in Mad Mex.

“We're in business to be connected our customers, our relationships, and more so in the family we create in the in the restaurant. We find that that connection, those relationships, then building to customer engagement, teamwork, loyalty, brand loyalty, and ultimately, quality,” he said.

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