Continuing on our Director Briefing interview section, we talked to Mark Alati, the Managing Director and Owner of Nathan’s Famous Australia. Founded in the U.S. Nathan’s are now entering the Australian market and Mark tells us more on what makes Nathan’s products so unique that they stand out in the crowd, how they plan on expanding in the Australian market as well as what to expect working as a franchisee for Nathan’s.
Eden Exchange: Hello Mark, thank you for joining us. Firstly, can you start off by telling us a little about your professional background and what your current role is at Nathan’s Famous?
Mark Alati: I have been self-employed for the last 31 years and have been fortunate enough to own a number of diverse businesses including a restaurant, a fitness center, a property maintenance and development company and a large electrical contracting business. I am currently the managing director and owner of Nathan’s Famous Australia.
Eden Exchange: What can you tell us about how Nathan’s Famous came about? How does it operate and what makes it so successful?
Mark Alati: My interest in Nathan’s was born out of a trip to Las Vegas with a couple of friends and even though I was not looking for any new businesses at the time, I fell in love with the Nathan’s concept and just thought it was an ideal fit for Australia. It is a very user friendly simple system with very little food preparation required and it can be operated via a mobile or trailer or in a small kiosk type set up. Most importantly we offer a range of very unique bespoken products.
Eden Exchange: We understand that the franchise is expanding the business into Australia. How did that decision come about?
Mark Alati: It was always part of the business model to give entrepreneurial Australians the opportunity to own and operate a Nathan’s Famous Franchise. It is such a great, flexible concept with a tried and tested system that has worked across the globe. We also have a relatively low buy in cost compared to our competitors and therefore it gives people the chance to become self-employed without mortgaging the farm (so to speak).
Eden Exchange: Where are you planning to establish initial franchises? Are there any specific locations nation wide you want to set up shop?
Mark Alati: We plan to open Australia wide and we are certainly open to expanding in regional areas as well as inner city locations. Both indoor and outdoor concepts allow us to target almost all demographics. We believe that there are many, many suburbs, towns and cities across this great country of ours that could easily accommodate a Nathan’s Famous Franchise.
Eden Exchange: How many franchises are you planning to start up in your first year? And how many franchises are you hoping to create in say 5 years?
Mark Alati: We would like to have around 25 in the next 5 years. We will not saturate the market and have franchisees competing against one another. We plan to give all franchisees large population bases to call on as well as area exclusivity.
Eden Exchange: Now Australia commonly associates sausages as a delicacy on the BBQ or in a sausage roll at the footy. Do you think Australians will adopt the American hot dog? Considering noted market instability with other American franchises such as Doughnut time, Starbucks, Burger King, Taco Bell and Krispy Crème?
Mark Alati: I disagree with the assertion that the current sausages or hot dogs on the market would be considered a delicacy. Nathan’s hot dogs are a very unique offering as our secret recipe is around 200 years old and our Frankfurt’s are made using 100% beef and most importantly they are barbecued, not boiled, and they are manufactured right here in Australia. Our buns are also made especially for us from an age old recipe which compliments and enhances the flavor. A Nathan’s hot dog has a taste all of its own and there is simply no comparison with any of our competitors.
Eden Exchange: Most iconic food types are associated with a type of festival, event or occasion in Australia. For example, seafood and smoked ham at Christmas, meat pies and sausage rolls at the footy, potato chips and nuts at the pub, fish ‘n chips at the beach and Aussie BBQs in the summer. How does Nathans Famous plan to associate their hot dogs into the Australian food culture?
Mark Alati: I am firmly of the belief that Nathan’s is not just to satisfy hunger. The products are so good that people will actually go to great lengths to source us out and we hope to become a destination food. By that I mean that people will attend a specific event or visit a shopping mall with the goal of getting a Nathan’s hot dog, some of our world famous fries or other amazing products. Of course we are ideally suited to sporting events and coastal towns for grab and go type food but we can also offer a fantastic casual dining experience as well.
Eden Exchange: How does Nathan’s Famous achieve its bottom line? Do you provide other products and services besides hot dogs and drinks? Do you provide mobile and event services similar to the food truck industry in Australia?
Mark Alati: We have a complete menu. Our signature dish is obviously the hot dog but it is ably supported by our fries and burgers (both chicken and beef) as well as our magnificently spiced southern fried chicken tenders and of course our thirst quenching homemade lemonade. We have designed purpose built trailers which can serve almost all of the products we offer in store. Also due to our well oiled systems we can serve a significant amount of people in a short space of time thus reducing waiting times which of course increases revenue and therefore profit.
Eden Exchange: What support can a franchisee for Nathan’s Famous expect? What type of support and initial setup assistance is provided to a new franchisee?
Mark Alati: That’s a great question as it’s one of the questions that come up more than almost all others during our meetings with franchisees. One of the major reasons I decided to purchase the master license for Australia was because of the extraordinary level of support that we receive from the United States and we have adopted exactly the same principles. All of our franchisees are trained in every aspect of the business and a member of my team will work with the franchisees for at least 3 weeks after opening and be on hand to help in any way needed at all times. We cover the bases from food safety and customer service right through to wage control and waste management. Even simple things like knowing when to fire up the grills or cook to order all add to the bottom line. We are there to assist right through the franchise journey.
Eden Exchange: What is Nathan’s Famous main goal for its first year in Australia? Is there a particular goal in mind or any industry obstacles you’ve seen?
Mark Alati: We have been open for a couple of years now and the feedback has been fantastic. I guess that now that we have ironed our the little mistakes that come with opening up all businesses I would like to see an influx of franchisees that want to come along for the ride. I think the food industry offerings are very saturated and Nathan’s offer a brand new concept and I truly believe it will be embraced by one and all.
Eden Exchange: Finally, is there anything you wish to say to anyone considering investing or pursuing a Nathan’s Famous franchise? Is there anything of note?
Mark Alati: The main thing for potential investors/franchisees to remember is that whilst we are very new here in Australia, Nathan’s in the US has been around since 1916 making it the oldest fast food/quick service restaurant chain in the world so they must be doing something right. I would like people who are thinking of buying a franchise to think for a moment what the first franchisees that bought into a McDonald’s, a Subway or a KFC were thinking. We are offering the same unique opportunity. To be amongst the first to own a piece of this iconic global brand.
Eden Exchange: Thank you for your time Mark. It has been a pleasure.
Nathan’s Famous was established in Coney Island, New York in 1916 and has ever since been one of the most iconic brands serving hot dogs in the U.S. They are recognised for their unique quality and taste of their products. After over 100 successful years in the U.S. they decided to launch in Australia and they are now growing quickly as the original hot dog manufacturer. Apart from their food trucks and stores they also sell products at food shops and these have been widely popular among many of their customers.
Visit Nathans’ Famous to find out more.