A Lesson from Mr Biggs


I remember growing up as a kid and I one of my favourite places to go have fun was Mr Biggs!  Back then, all we knew about fastfoods was Mr Biggs.  From their food, to the snacks, the children's playground and for me especially, their collection of Super Strika's comics that got me hooked for hours unending.

It's unfortunate and rather heartbreaking that, passing by a Mr Biggs outlet a few days ago, I observed that they had SHUT DOWN.
I wasn't particularly surprised as I knew the business had been struggling to survive, barely existing for a while now.

Mr Biggs, Nigeria's premier fast-food chain to the best of my knowledge was supposed to be a Nigerian prototype of the globally acclaimed McDonald's . Sadly though, they seemed to have focused on the wrong things and ignored a whole lot.

There are a few things I have learnt from Mr Bigg's' failure about business and life which I would like to share. 

1. Focus on your customers:

Mr Bigg's management did a good job in trying to look like the famous American fast-food chain McDonald's. What they critical forgot to do was focus on meeting the needs of their "Nigerian" customers who do not give a hoot if they looks like McDonalds, KFC, Burger King or any other reputable brand for that matter.

Just like the Nigerian Christian Church , rather then focus on their customer's needs and preferences, they chose to focus on their buildings - building bigger and bigger buildings, But neglecting their quality, taste and service which are critical to their existence.

2. Innovate don't Renovate:

A lot of times, businesses in their quest to stay trendy and relevant, they do what Mr Bigg's did - they renovate massively and rebrand themselves with the hopes that these would change the perception of customers about them. Rather than become more innovative with their products and services, they chose to do more of renovations, change logos and do general touch-up of their facility.

Not saying that renovations are a bad idea. But it gets terrible when they are your only idea. There was a time when Mr Bigg's experimented with the Village Kitchen concept, But that ended up being a total failure.

The concept was to  merge the traditional fast-food with the local dish restaurant/bucca - a cool and creative concept. Sadly, they seemed unable to handle the distraction that deviating from their core business model (McDonald's-style fast-food) and soon enough, it disappeared from the scene...eventually culminating in the closing down of our beloved Mr Biggs.

3. Ask for Feedback & Implement it:

Most times when organizations ask for feedback, it is just a fulfillment of the proverbial corporate "righteousness", The important thing about asking for feedback is to gain valuable information from customers and staff in order to improve on your offering. 

In the case of Mr Bigg's, it is either they were not asking/receiving feedback or they were ignoring the feedback they were getting. Even when competition began coming into the scene, they seemed rather unperturbed and did nothing to improve, but grew worse. When customers were complaining about their food being stale, customer service being poor and environment being less hygienic, they turned  deaf ear.

4. Don't Copy & Paste: 

Copying and pasting some "tested" business model developed by some Harvard Business School grad may not work in your territory. Touted to be the McDonald's of Nigeria in the past, Mr Bigg's management tried really hard to copy the McDonald's franchise. You will find a lot of similarities between Mr Bigg's and McDonald's in their logos, staff uniforms, slogans, almost everything, 

They however forgot one important factor that makes McDonald's so successful - their recipes! McDonald's has some unique, patented recipes for some pastries and meals like Burgers, Pizza, etc that are so unique customers know if its not McDonanlds, you've got to be kidding! Mr Biggs had no unique recipe and focused on the more visible side of the McDonalds business: the logos, the staff uniforms, the packaging, the real estate; but neglected the less visible sides: the recipes, the customer service, the staff trainings, etc.

 You would need to tailor your business model to suit the uniqueness of 
your market/terrain, develop your unique selling proposition and always stay ahead of your competition.

Writing this, I wonder how many Nigerian big businesses today would survive the next decade or still exist twenty years from now... that's a matter for another day.

As I mourn my beloved Mr Bigg's, I sip my glass of juice and watch a movie sinking in these lessons...

Written by Precious Nwanganga  © 2014
Follow him on twitter @Pmoney_Talks
Email him on buzzfizzle@gmail.com

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