Author’s description: The MCO has spawned a host of new entrepreneurs, especially in the F&B scene. Starting a home-based business is now somewhat easier when it comes with an abundance of courier services and online markets like Requirements or Good discoveries.
What began as a shared love of fried chicken between two friends, quickly turned into a business built on fried chicken in the southern style. Initially only treating it as a side project that could potentially generate zero income, Shafiq and Johann started with a capital of only RM 1,000 for research and development in the former kitchen house.
After 3 months of detailed refinement of the recipe for buttermilk chicken, they were ready to present their product on the market. Unfortunately for them, the cases of COVID-19 rose sharply locally as early as 2020, and the MCO was announced.
“Earlier we planned to do pop-ups from March onwards and we decided that because everyone has to be at home, why not start it as a home delivery operation?” recalled Shafiq for the Vulcan Post. So, FOWLBOYS was launched on the same day that the state experienced our first lock on March 18, 2020.
Another brand of fried chicken?
The decision to embark on FOWLBOYS came after Johann returned from a family trip to Melbourne and Sydney. There he discovered two prominent southern dishes with fried chicken that evoked inspiration.
A passionate home chef and former event organization consultant, Johann presented his idea to Shafiqu and they realized the opportunity in the market. Fried chicken sells well in Malaysia, but so many are focused on fast food and Korean styles.
“We saw a void in the Southern-style fried chicken market. Buttermilk is an essential ingredient of the Southern tradition, so it was natural to start with fried chicken marinated in buttermilk, ”explained Shafiq, who runs the brand’s marketing with his experience in fashion retail marketing.
Together, they devised ways to single out FOWLBOYS from the multitude of finished chicken products on the market.
First comes their mix of products; on top of emphasizing the buttermilk marinade, their dishes are sold as sandwiches instead of as bone products (think KFC). Shafiq added, “From a marketing perspective, a chicken sandwich is a more complete meal experience than fried chicken.”
The tone used in marketing FOWLBOYS on social media is also a prominent feature for them, casual and accessible with a touch of humor. Customers call it “Cluckers,” the sandwich is called “Motherclucker,” and “Cluck Off” is stamped into each paper bag.
“We are rude. You probably wouldn’t find this from our more refined colleagues, “Shafiq commented.
With a limited capital of RM 1,000, the team’s decision to sell fried chicken sandwiches is twofold. In addition to marketing, they also had practical reasons for giving up chicken bone products.
Chicken bones would take up more storage space in their home freezer and they couldn’t put large quantities in their small fryer. “Besides, the frying time of chicken in bone is significantly longer than the boneless thigh fillets we use,” Shahfiq pointed out.
“So, from an operational and financial point of view, it was more logical to start with sandwiches. The equipment for frying chickens in bones would be much bigger. “
The power of the mouth
Like every house in the house, the sale began with friends and family spreading the word about FOWLBOYS and its products. From there, sales grew organically, from selling 30 sandwiches a day in the first week, to the next 40 and so on. By the end of 2020, in May, partners were selling 100 sandwiches a day.
“We focused on marketing Instagram and found that most of our customers share their meals on their stories. We really have the best customers, because they did most of the marketing for us – we didn’t spend a penny on social media ads, much later, “Shafiq told the Vulcan Post.
With enough revenue to launch a year ago, FOWLBOYS expects expected spending of RM150k for its next trade. The original plan was to open a small wall shop in Mont Chiara, but since then they have found a larger plot for a good offer. Shafiq and Johann scaled their plan and landed in a small diner for 25 people.
They will use most of the plot to make it a central kitchen that will support their second cloud kitchen in Mont Chiara. “As much as you believe in the lean business model of spiritual kitchens, you can’t deny the fact that the dining experience is still important to a brand’s longevity,” Shafiq expressed.
Bottom line: It is worth noting that FOWLBOYS is not the only locally branded roast chicken in the Southern style. Another one I found, Southern fried chicken serves them too, even in the form of sandwiches. However, it’s far from a saturated market and I think Shafiq and Johann’s business can go a long way, especially with their loyal fan base that has grown over the last year.
Credits for featured images: FOWLBOYS