Long John Silver’s Makes Its Debut in Indonesia

Young Indonesian consumers are gravitating toward fast food, said Chandra Supandi, which is one of the reasons he believes Long John Silver’s is poised for success in the Southeastern Asia market.

“The market of fast food after the pandemic is something that the younger Z generation, it has been the favorite. It is the way of their lifestyle,” said Supandi, president director of PT Cipta Putra Nusantara, which in late May opened its first Long John Silver’s restaurant in Indonesia. The location in Gading Serpong, a city in the Tangerang regency west of Jakarta, is the first of more than 50 planned for the country, where PT Cipta Putra Nusantara is the master franchisee.

The store’s early sales performance seems to back up Supandi’s perspective. “Sales are above what we expected,” he said from Jakarta when reached in mid-July, up 70 percent over what the group projected. The focus now is on retaining customers and continuing to drive brand awareness for a concept making its debut in the country. Long John Silver’s does have a growing presence in nearby Singapore, where franchisee Zensho Food Singapore operates 18 units.

Supandi, who has 20 years of experience in food and beverage, including operating TGI Fridays in Indonesia, began evaluating the potential for fast food seafood in the country seven years ago, eventually visiting Long John Silver’s restaurants in Miami. There’s a “huge opportunity” for the brand to stand out in a country where he said the dominate fast food protein is chicken. Even McDonald’s and A&W, which both have dozens of restaurants throughout Indonesia and are typically recognized for their hamburgers, are “famous for the chicken.”

“The seafood will be an alternate protein,” said Supandi. “Consumers get tired of chicken, always chicken.” Seafood is often a more expensive menu item in a typical sit-down restaurant, he added, but Long John Silver’s is competitive with other QSR offerings. A one-piece fish combo meal with a side (coleslaw, corn, fries or rice) and two hush puppies is 34,000 rupiahs, or about $2.26.

The Indonesia government, meanwhile, through the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, is taking steps to increase seafood consumption in the country, Supandi noted, which could indirectly help drive traffic to LJS.

The intention of the nationwide push, as reported by local Indonesian news agencies, is to address issues of malnutrition within the population, boost the sustainability of the seafood market and help drive an important sector of the economy. As a maritime nation, Indonesia has access to a variety of seafood, and PT Cipta Putra Nusantara could eventually establish a local supply chain for its restaurants, said Supandi, thought initially it will continue to import products from the United States.

Known for its wild-caught Alaskan pollock, the core menu at Long John Silver’s also includes shrimp, salmon, Pacific cod and chicken.

PT Cipta Putra Nusantaras’ flagship restaurant in Gading Serpong is a 6,000-square-foot two-level location with a drive-thru, a first for Long John Silver’s globally. Supandi said two more drive-thru units are set to open in the fourth quarter, in Jakarta and Cikarang, and his group plans to open and operate a total of six restaurants before considering sub-franchisees.

For Long John Silver’s, the expansion in Indonesia comes as domestic franchise growth is again part of the company’s plan. The brand’s footprint has shrunk dramatically in recent years, dropping from 1,265 units in 2013 to 638 at the end of 2021.

Founded in 1969, Long John Silver’s has had multiple owners over its 54 years, notably A&W, which itself would eventually become part of Yum Brands. It was sold in 2011 to LJS Partners, a consortium of franchisees and other investors, and in November 2022 was purchased by Four Oaks Partners, a group of investors led by Bob Jenkins, himself a Long John Silver’s franchisee and president of Charter Foods.

Nate Fowler joined the company as brand president in February and was previously a managing director with Pinnacle Financial Partners. The new ownership group “has been bullish on the offering from Long John Silver’s for many years,” said Fowler, and is working to “reintroduce the brand to our loyal following.”

The company is working on several fronts to prepare the brand for growth, including a major remodel effort. “There is a large number of restaurants that need to be updated, revamped and refreshed,” said Fowler, and starting in September the company plans to remodel two restaurants a month “for the foreseeable future.”

Four Oaks is also investing in technology upgrades, including a new point-of-sale system, development of a mobile ordering app and installation of digital menu boards.

“Domestically, we’re engaged in initial conversations with multiple franchise groups. We do have an interest in growing our current footprint,” said Fowler. The company will initially look to capitalize on the brand awareness it has in existing markets and possibly return to markets it had exited, he added.

Source: Franchise Times

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