“Central-izing success. “
Thai-ing up the F&B market.
Central Restaurants Group Company Limited (CRG) was established in 1989 in Thailand and is a subsidiary of Central Plaza Hotel Public Company Limited, a SET listed company.
What began with making and distributing donuts under the Mister Donut brand, in 1978 is now a group consisting of various F&B and Restaurant brands in Thailand. The group operates various trademarks which include Mister Donut, KFC, Auntie Anne’s, Pepper Lunch, Chabuton, Cold Stone Creamery, Thai Terrace, Yoshinoya, Ootoya, Tenya, Katsuya, Aroidee, Kowlune, Arigato and Every Foood.
Their mission, “to serve a delicious and quality meal with memorable experience to our customers” rings true as they have invested much in the software as well as the hardware aspect of their business. Apart from ensuring that consistent restaurant operation systems and quality controls are maintained, they focus largely on strengthening their employees’ engagement, ensuring that their team is committed to providing consistent products with quality service.
CRG’s focus on improving their Human Resources capabilities through innovation and development has received due recognition, and the corporation was awarded with the Thailand HR Innovation Award 2021. Their efforts in supporting handicapped labour were also recognized by Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, with CRG being recognized for six consecutive years.
Like many other industries worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic brought about many challenges for CRG, but they weathered the storm and emerged stronger by capitalizing on different ways of doing business in the ‘new normal’. By virtue of having a flexible and agile work culture already embedded in their organization, they were able to rapidly develop new formats and business models to respond to the market situation.
Responding to the lock down period, the social-distancing policy that limited the number of dine-in customers, and regulations to enforce higher safety and more sanitization, CRG was able to find a niche, and developed their delivery system as a new channel of business. This sales channel generated approximately THB2.8bn of sales in 2021, representing about a 40 percent growth year-on-year.
CRG has continued to adapt their services and systems to suit ‘new normal’ customer behaviors and new target customers. As an example, they rolled out a significant number of cloud kitchens with strengthened delivery services; to ensure they could meet customers’ demands anywhere, anytime with product quality similar to a dine-in experience. Today, they are the largest cloud kitchen operator in Thailand, a reflection of their adaptive and responsive way of doing business.
Despite the challenges, CRG experienced many gains in 2021. Throughout the pandemic period, they emerged as one of the top performers in the industry, both financially and operationally. They have also managed to achieve a constant high rate of store growth; hitting 1,000 stores in 2019 and 1,300 stores in 2021, a remarkable achievement given the current climate.
As one of the market leaders of the food and beverage industry in Thailand, it is no wonder that many of CRG’s brands constantly receive the Brand of the Year Award from various renowned organizations. Among their award-winning brands include Mister Donut, KFC and Auntie Anne’s.
Over the past few years, CRG has also successfully established a joint venture partnership with three best-in-class SMEs restaurant brands, namely Salad Factory, Brown Café and Somtamnua. This partnership has helped both parties to expand their business faster, provided synergy to all parties and ultimately, deliver good value meals and service to a wider customer group.
Acknowledging that no business can succeed without a strong customer base, CRG takes a methodological approach in identifying their customers’ wants and needs. Their products and services are designed to suit each group of their targeted customers.
For example, the main customer base of their Ootoya Restaurants are families, so the design of their stores and service is designed to provide a warm and friendly experience. With Katsuya and Pepper Lunch appealing more to the Teen and New-Gen customers, a fun and exciting service experience, coupled with the use of technology is the order of the day. The overarching principle for every customer demographic at any CRG restaurant continues to be great quality and service.
In their commitment to quality, every CRG outlet is operated under stringent quality controls, all adhering to international Food Safety and Quality standards accredited by the Ministry of Public Health. They engage in yearly audits conducted by a third party certification body to monitor their outlets’ standards, as well as to update new standards of operations. In addition, their operations conform to ISO 9001, GHP, HACCP and SGS certification.
As a people-centric business, CRG places their employees at the heart of their business. By laying out a strategic roadmap of career development for all positions, employees are given the opportunity to contribute ideas for improvement, take on new projects or participate in activities to maximize their potential; with the purpose of enriching the internal talent pool.
Through their CRG Innovation Contest, employees are given a platform to showcase their abilities through collaboration with various departments, and presenting their innovative ideas to the management; allowing new talent to be discovered, cultivated and recognized.
Many initiatives were also implemented at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance live engagements via CRG’s Facebook page covering festivals like Loi Krathong, right up to knowledge sharing sessions on Covid-19 by doctors.
CRG was quick to respond to the threats of the pandemic concerning the welfare of their employees. A Covid-19 committee was quickly set up, addressing and responding to all issues relating to employee well-being. Their efforts included support in procuring vaccinations for employees and their families, providing Covid-19 insurance, and arranging for the care of employees who contracted the virus, via a specially created fund.
For CRG, a win at ACES 2022 is great recognition to their team for their contribution over the years, and a platform to demonstrate their core values on operation excellence, people excellence and brand excellence. They hope to also be the inspiration of industry peers on the importance of adhering to good governance and sustainability.
“To grow a brand in Thailand’s competitive F&B industry is already a challenge. To expand at the speed and capacity that Central Restaurants Group did during the pandemic is testament to superb management skill. Coupled with leadership which simultaneously cared for its people during the most critical of times, while giving their frontliners a reason to continue showing up and delivering their best, it is little wonder that this Group deserves our highest Award.”
Shanggari Balakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, MORS Group