Author’s Blurb: The MCO has bred plenty of new entrepreneurs, particularly in the F&B scene. Starting a home-based business is in a way easier now when coupled with the abundance of courier services and online marketplaces like Kravve or Good Finds.
What started as a shared love for fried chicken between 2 friends quickly materialised into a business built upon Southern-style fried chicken. Initially just treating it as a side project that would potentially generate zero income, Shafiq and Johann started with a capital of just RM1,000 for R&D in the former’s home kitchen.
After 3 months of meticulously perfecting their buttermilk chicken’s recipe, they were ready to introduce their product to the market. Unfortunately for them, COVID-19 cases were spiking locally back in 2020, and the MCO was announced.
“We had earlier planned to do pop-ups from March onwards and decided that because everyone had to be at home, why not launch as a home delivery operation?” recalled Shafiq to Vulcan Post. Hence, FOWLBOYS was launched on the same day the nation experienced our first lockdown on March 18, 2020.
Yet Another Fried Chicken Brand?
The decision to venture into FOWLBOYS unfolded upon Johann’s return from a family trip in Melbourne and Sydney. There, he discovered 2 prominent Southern-style fried chicken diners that sparked inspiration.
An avid home cook and a former consultant in events management, Johann presented his idea to Shafiq and they realised an opportunity in the market. Fried chicken sells well in Malaysia, but there are so many of them focused on fast food and Korean styles.
“We saw a gap in the market for Southern-style fried chicken. Buttermilk is an essential ingredient in the Southern tradition so it was only natural to begin with buttermilk marinated fried chicken,” explained Shafiq, who heads the brand’s marketing with his background in fashion retail marketing.
Together, they came up with ways to make FOWLBOYS stand out from the multitude of ready-to-eat chicken products on the market.
First comes their product mix; on top of emphasising the buttermilk marinade, their dishes are sold as sandwiches instead of bone-in products (think KFC). Shafiq added, “From a marketing perspective, a chicken sandwich is a more complete meal experience than fried chicken.”
The tone employed in FOWLBOYS’ marketing on social media is also a prominent feature for them, casual and approachable with a touch of humour. Customers are called “Cluckers”, a sandwich is named “Motherclucker”, and “Cluck Off” is stamped onto every paper bag.
“We’re unapologetically cheeky. You probably wouldn’t find this from our more refined counterparts,” commented Shafiq.
With a limited capital of RM1,000, the team’s decision to sell fried chicken sandwiches is two pronged. On top of marketing, they had practical reasons for forgoing bone-in chicken products as well.
Bone-in chickens would take up more storage space in their home freezer, and they couldn’t fit large volumes into their small fryer. “Plus, the frying time for bone-in chicken is considerably longer than the boneless thigh fillets that we use,” Shahfiq pointed out.
“So from an operations and finance standpoint, it made more sense to start with sandwiches. The equipment cost alone to fry bone-in chickens would be significantly higher too.”
The Power Of Word Of Mouth
Like any home-based business, sales kicked off with friends and family spreading the word about FOWLBOYS and its products. From there, sales grew organically, from selling 30 sandwiches a day their first week, to 40 the next, and so on. By the end of 2020’s MCO in May, the partners were selling 100 sandwiches per day.
“We focused on marketing ourselves on Instagram and found that most of our customers were sharing 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 single cent on social media ads until much later down the road,” shared Shafiq to Vulcan Post.
With enough revenue since launching a year ago, FOWLBOYS is looking at an expected expenditure of RM150k for their next store. The initial plan was to open a small hole-in-the-wall store in Mont Kiara, but they’ve since found a larger lot for a good deal. Shafiq and Johann scaled their plan and landed on a small diner to seat up to 25 people.
They will use a larger portion of the lot to make it a central kitchen which will support their other cloud kitchen in Mont Kiara. “As much as we believe in the lean business model of ghost kitchens, you can’t deny the fact that the dine-in experience is still important for the longevity of a brand,” Shafiq expressed.
Bottom Line: It’s worth noting that FOWLBOYS isn’t the only Southern-style fried chicken brand locally. Another that I found, Southern Fried Chicken serves them too, even in sandwich form. However, it’s far from being a saturated market, and I think Shafiq and Johann’s business has the potential to go far, especially with their loyal fanbase that’s grown over the past year.
Featured Image Credit: FOWLBOYS