AMERICAN FARE: Restaurant chain believes Malaysia’s growing younger population will be receptive to its menu
IF YOU have a penchant for all-American favourite food while listening to music streaming from the jukebox, and even having the staff singing and dancing for you while you dine, you'd probably love Johnny Rockets.
The American restaurant chain claims its food will be cheaper than those of Chili's but more expensive than McDonald's, and it will get the halal certification to ease some Muslims' wariness when it comes to dining out.
In a recent interview here, Johnny Rockets international development president Steve Devine said Malaysia's first Johnny Rocket restaurant will be launched in the next eight to 12 months.
"And we hope to have up to 30 restaurants in this country in 15 to 20 years," he said.
The initial years will see the company focusing on the Klang Valley area, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.
Devine said Johnny Rockets, a privately-held company based in Los Angeles, is in the midst of finding a franchise partner here and has hired international property consultancy CB Richard Ellis (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (CBRE) to represent and introduce the brand here.
Asked on the estimated investment the franchisee needs to fork out to open one Johnny restaurant here, he said it will depend on the location and size.
"I can't say the exact amount but in the US, about US$1 million (RM3 million) is needed to open an outlet," Devine said.
In the US, Johnny Rockets restaurant's size ranges from 500 to 2,200 square feet and can feature seating for eight to 80 guests.
A restaurant of 2,200 square feet will need a staff strength of 35 to 50 and as at May 2011, its international restaurants averaged RM1.3 million in annualised sales each.
Asked if Malaysia, which has quite a number of American restaurant chains, can offer big prospects for Johnny Rockets, Devine said Malaysia's growing younger population, who are more receptive towards international menus, is a positive indicator.
"Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country and is well-suited to the Johnny Rockets experience. With 10 restaurants operating in the Philippines and South Korea, and one opening soon in Indonesia, we believe our success in Asia will continue to our growing brand awareness and restaurant," he added.
The appointment of CBRE as its consultant will include expansion into other parts of Asia, except China.
"We have ambitious expansion plans for Asia and having a regional expert to assist us is crucial," Devine said, adding that CBRE is expected to accelerate its growth, especially in Southeast Asia.
He added that Johnny Rockets is not about selling food but creating experiences for Malaysian customers.
"Our popular food is our authentic hamburger and the milk shake," he said.
CBRE vice-president John Sigler, who was also present during the interview, said it is timely to bring in the Johnny Rockets brand here.
"We recognise that the modern retail world is globalising rapidly and markets such as Malaysia are incredibly attractive to new international brands from Europe, Australia and America," he said.
Sigler said along with Johnny Rockets, CBRE is also exclusively retained here by a number of other international retailers while assisting several more who are preparing to enter the region.
CBRE, which is part of the CBRE Group Inc, is the world's largest commercial real estate services firm and is a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company.
Its current and past retail projects in Malaysia include KL Festival City, The Curve, Empire City, Damansara City, Carrefour, City Square in Johor Baru, The Spring in Kuching and KK Imago in Kota Kinabalu.
Johnny Rockets first opened its outlet in 1986 in Los Angeles and expanded to the Middle East in the mid-80s.
Devine said its expansion into the Middle East has been very successful and it hopes to replicate this in Asia.