Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 27th 2013 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, May 27, 2013
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any of the homestyle meals. He said
this was the first weakness he saw in
the business since the taste of meals
was inconsistent. He spent years work-
ing on the fried chicken recipe and it
is only recently he achieved the stan-
dardised taste he was looking for.
"We now own everything in the
recipe," he said. "We used to purchase
different parts of the recipe from people
but now we own the entire thing so
within the last six months we were able
to standardise every part of the process
and every step of the recipe." Apart
from Japs secret recipe, the company
has also decided to withhold the name
of the "particular individual" who
Mahabir brought into the kitchen to
help in finalising it. He said the woman s
name would remain a Japs trade secret.
In 2007, Bago s Kitchen was forced
to shut down because it was not
licenced to sell both food and liquor.
Shortly after, Mahabir decided to close
the bar and focus only on the restaurant.
In that same year, he registered the
restaurant s name--- Japs Fried Chicken.
He said Japs was a family nickname
given to himself, his brothers, his step-
father and even his mother who became
known as Madame Japs. The first two
restaurants were both located in Sangre
Grande---the first at the location of
Bago s Kitchen and the second on Andre
Street on the Eastern Main Road. Since
then, outlets have opened in Valencia,
Rio Claro, St Helena, San Juan, St James
and Arima. He said the Sangre Grande
and Arima branches are the most suc-
cessful. Japs has opened a new branch
every year since 2007 with the excep-
tion of 2011. Mahabir said he used that
year to standardise operations and to
develop policies and procedures to
manage the large number of employees.
Mahabir constantly receives requests
from customers urging him to open
branches in other parts of the country.
This year, he is trying to choose from
three potential branch locations in Port-
of-Spain, San Fernando and Tobago.
Japs has started a delivery service at
its Foster Road, Sangre Grande outlet
as well as the one in San Juan. He hopes
to expand the delivery service to all
branches. Its only franchise is a mobile
unit which was franchised to local foot-
baller Brent Sancho in 2011.
When the Japs buzz first began, the
restaurant specialised in fried chicken
and fries with garlic sauce as a side.
Now around six years later, many addi-
tions have been made to the Japs menu
including fried fish, shrimp, potato
wedges, chicken nuggets, salads, vegan
burgers and chicken sandwiches. With
its tagline, "de best taste around",
Mahabir said apart from its fries, Japs
uses all local materials in its meals and
makes its own condiments and sea-
soning. The company s logo, which was
designed in 2005 by Annie Ramjattan,
is an animated image of Mahabir.
Asked about Japs size of operation,
he said there are around 20 staff mem-
bers in each of the eight outlets. Since
he took over in 2000, he has been refin-
ing and developing Japs business
"Before people would have thought
that I was Japs and I did everything,
but from 2007 to present I just oversee
the operations. So it has gone from
being a sole proprietor to being a limited
liability company delegating responsi-
bilities to different departments."
In recent years, small fried chicken
companies have opened up throughout
T&T attracting long lines of people
seeking a quick meal. While these new
restaurants offer competitive prices,
Mahabir said they cannot compete with
Japs when it comes to standards of
operation and quality.
He said: "Local business owners seem
to have gotten more brave now to come
up against international rivals like KFC,
Church s Chicken and Popeyes. Some
of these new businesses may even have
taken some pointers from what we
(Japs) have done in terms of pricing,
delivering quality product and looking
for a certain taste." He said Japs offered
the healthiest fried chicken option in
Trinidad since all its meat is cleaned
and prepared to ensure that there is a
minimal amount of fat and oil.
Speaking about Japs expansion
prospects, Mahabir said he hopes to
see Japs outlets in other Caribbean
islands but he is currently focused on
maintaining the highest possible stan-
dard of operations in T&T.
For now, he says, Japs Fried Chicken
is still in its "incubator phase" and he
will not consider it to be a success story
until the business has reached its ten-
year mark and continues to thrive.
What is the secret to the
success of a fast food chain?
The T&T Guardian also spoke to
marketing strategist and managing
director at Pepper Advertising Dennis
Ramdeen who explained some of the
secrets to the success of a fast food
chain. Among them, he said was the
quality of the food and whether or not
the physical product met the expecta-
tions of the customer. Another major
factor, is the customer experience which
he said depended on a number of ques-
tions including: Did the cashier get the
customer s order right? Was the outlet
clean? Was the cashier pleasant? He
said the final factor was value
which examines the relationship
between benefits and price.
"Based on what the customer
gets and what the customer pays,"
he said, "do they feel like they have
gotten good value for money? If
you pay for a sandwich and when
you open it you see a very tiny
piece of chicken, you might feel
cheated." All three factors, he said,
would determine "customer loy-
He also said in order to compete
with large, established businesses,
newer businesses needed to "own
a clear position in the minds and
hearts of customers".
In the same way that the Walt
Disney World brand will forever
be associated with enchantment,
Ramdeen said each brand must
seek to own one trademark ele-
ment. He said in finding this,
brands should ask two questions:
What do our customers desire?
What can my brand give customers
better than any other brand could?
Other than business longevity,
Ramdeen said a fast food business
can measure success by monitoring
its organic sales growth.
"That means, are sales of exist-
ing stores growing yearly? If your
increases are only coming from
new store builds then that may
indicate that you have a problem
rather than a success."
Mahabir takes Japs to new heights
2008---Valencia and Rio Claro
2011---No branch opened
2012---St James and Arima
In a T&T Guardian article from
March 2011, Nicholas Thomas
(Mahabir's stepfather of four
years) dismissed claims that
Mahabir and his mother invented
the Japs recipe for fried chicken.
Thomas said he developed the
recipe in 1979 when the first Japs
Fast Food outlet was opened. The
story said Thomas' lawyer had
issued two pre-action protocol
letters to Mahabir and his mother
to stop the use of the name Japs
Fried Chicken. In his interview
with the T&T Guardian, Mahabir
said there was never a court
battle over the matter and there
would soon be a hearing at the
Ministry of Legal Affairs in
relation to the Japs trademark
at work at the
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