“My father’s employees had no confidence in me. They thought I was too young and inexperienced to handle it all on my own”, says Sohail Yusuf, CEO of MDS (Muhammad Din Sons) Food Limited while speaking of his journey which led to the successful local launch of the fast-food chain Hardees.
Born in Gujranwala, Yusuf acquired his MBA from The University of Luton in England, after which he started his troublesome five-year long journey to procure a Hardees franchise.
In 2004, Yusuf and a friend, who had been working as a regional manager at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) for years, applied for franchises to two fast-food chains – Burger King and Hardees. “While Burger King rejected us outright, a CKE (the Hardees mother company) employee in Dubai was impressed by the determination showed by the combination of an ambitious youngster and an experienced person. We were asked to evaluate costs and return with a well-worked plan” said Yusuf.
“After working out the feasibility of a franchise, we returned to them a year later”, told Yusuf.
He worked out the expenses, food costs and vendors before an entourage of 12 including him left for a four-week training programme in the US and Dubai.
Despite the criticism levelled at his plans, his father provided him the Rs300 million initial investment required to open the first Hardees outlet in November 2009.
“Profits initially dipped by 25 per cent as a result of the depreciation of the rupee against the dollar but switching from Saudi Arabian meat vendors to Malaysian ones pushed down the cost per unit by almost 30 per cent”, he added.
With revenues matching those of the three busiest KFC outlets in Lahore, Hardees’ char-grilled beef burgers and curly fries have been some of the best selling fast food items in Lahore for over a year now.
When questioned on his future plans for Hardees, he spoke about the introduction of a lettuce wrap and fish-burgers for health-conscious people and seafood fans. He also plans to add to the three existing outlets in Lahore as well as opening one in Islamabad by May.
Yusuf also spoke about his plans to start an ice-cream and frozen yogurt chain. While choosing not to disclose whether it would also be a franchise of famous American chains - Marbleslab Creamery or Cold Stone – he expects they will do well in the nine-month long summers in most parts of the country.
Asked why he opted to use the Hardees’ name rather than opening a Pakistani chain of international standards, he replied, “We lack the infrastructure and quality vendors who can maintain the high food standards. Besides, people here prefer international goods to local ones.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2011.