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Don’t be afraid to change the plan if it’s not working

Tim Lowther General Manager for Carl’s Jr. in Europe in interview about expansion into Germany and the next steps

Please introduce yourself briefly!

Of course. I’m Tim Lowther, and I’ve been the General Manager for Carl’s Jr. in Europe and Russia since 2019. I’ve been responsible for the growing success of the company in all of Europe, helping to integrate into new markets and expand in ones where Carl’s Jr. already has a presence. Currently I’m taking a leading role in the search for franchise partners to help us collaborate and bring the company into Germany. 

What are your tasks in the company?

My main role as General Manager of CKE Restaurants in Europe and Russia is to oversee the smooth running and development of the Carl’s Jr. franchise model on the continent. This means that I meet and talk with both current partners and potential future partners. Most recently, since July 2021, my European based team and I have been working closely with our new Master Franchisee in Russia which has just embarked on a new franchise deal to open 300 Carl’s Jr. restaurants in Russia in the coming years. My primary focus, at present, is finding the franchisees that are the best fit to help launch and then drive our brand forward in Germany.

What is a normal working day like for Tim Lowther?

There is no such thing as a normal day in this role, and that’s why I love it so much.

Firstly it depends if I am travelling around the region or working from my home office in Manchester, UK. I like to start the day with a short 5k run at least 3 days per week, I find that it helps get me into the right mindset before the day and then I get straight into setting priorities for the day and responding to any messages that may have come in overnight from our global network.

I am fortunate that we have a diverse team spread across the European market covering our key functions from Supply Chain, Quality Assurance, Operations, Training and Marketing as well as a fantastic support network from our Restaurant Support Centre in Nashville, Tennessee and across the USA. My role splits into 3 key functions and each day I try to do something to move these 3 areas forward:

Firstly, I am here to support our existing franchisees across Europe to help them to be more profitable and to continue to give great service and quality to our guests.

Next, is to support our existing franchisees as they build on their existing estates and seek to open more restaurants, this year alone we will go from 80 restaurants to over 100 restaurants in Europe with restaurants opening across the region in France, Spain, Turkey, Russia and we hope soon in the UK and Germany.

The third part of my role is to identify and build strategies for new market entry such as Germany which is a key priority for me and the team today.

With such a lot going on across the region I am fortunate that with the advent of online meetings, and having such a strong team, I can focus on a lot of projects at any given time and frequently find myself switching from Supply Chain to Development to Operations to Marketing to Legal and Finance at the drop of a hat.

What are the requirements for becoming a franchisee?

Fostering deep relationships with partners is integral to our continued success. We need ambitious people that share this vision. Partners, who with the industry acknowledged support of our well-established regional teams, want to disrupt the market, and help us write the next chapter in the Carl’s Jr. success story. We listen thoughtfully and learn from our informed franchisees to stay one step ahead of the competition, at all times, and this will be no different for our relationships in Germany. 

In which markets can you find Carl’s Jr.?

CKE Restaurants is represented in a total of + 40 countries, including of course the United States of America. In Europe, we are represented in Denmark, Spain & France. We also have presence in the Republic of Turkey and the Russian Federation. Carl’s Jr. and CKE Restaurants are also active in throughout the America’s, Middle East/Africa, Asia and Oceania.

When was Carl’s Jr. founded?

Carl’s Jr. was founded in 1941 in the United States. Because of this we’re an established brand, with 80 years of experience, deep expertise, and a proven track record of international success. But we like to do things differently than our competitors. I often describe Carl’s Jr. as “QSR plus” and we’re able to achieve this elevated status this by combining our longstanding experience with great, contemporary facility designs and a dedicated global innovation team that creates craveable and unique flavours across our menu. 

Who has founded Carl’s Jr.?

In 1941, QSR industry pioneer Carl N. Karcher and his wife, Margaret, invested all their savings to buy a hot dog cart in Los Angeles, California. Within five years, the Karchers opened their first restaurant. In the following decades, more and more branches were opened and the company grew. At the end of the 1980s, their first international branch was opened in Mexico. 

When will the first Carl’s Jr open in Germany?

I believe the QSR market in Germany is in need of a shakeup, and that there is appetite amongst consumers for a new, fresh and innovative perspective. The QSR landscape is highly competitive as we know, but for a while now the same brands have dominated the market, largely by doing the same things. It’s time for something new, and we want to achieve that within the next 18 months.

How is Carl’s Jr. different from other burger restaurants?

I clearly see Carl’s Jr. as “QSR plus” because our restaurants have a great, modern design and a dedicated global innovation team that creates unique flavours across our menus. Within our product offerings, ingredients are combined in unexpected ways, and wo suit every taste, we also create local menus. This culinary creativity combined with freshness and traditions such as charcoal grilling makes us special. By offering all-you-can-drink areas and table service in all our restaurants, Carl’s Jr. offers a truly different dining experience for all guests.

What kind of burgers will the customer find at your place?

As already mentioned, quality and unique taste are our priority. From the juicy Angus Thickburger to the Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger, as well as fabulous Hand-Breaded Chicken Fillet and Tenders, we have a wide range of exquisite burgers and menu items that our guests can look forward to. For those who prefer vegetarian options, we also offer meatless burgers, so, there is a burger for every taste profile.

Who is the classic customer who comes to Carl’s Jr.?

We are a people-first company with a shared goal: to awaken food cravings. Carl’s Jr. is proud to have spent the last 80 years bringing people together to make food cravings a reality. Our target audience is anyone who loves great food. We’re a more adult brand than other QSR brands, from university students to workers who like to hang out with their friends and enjoy a delicious, indulgent burger. We focus on quality, game-changing products with unbeatable service to match. Innovation is at the heart of everything we do, with a regularly changing, unique menu you won’t find elsewhere. We strive to make every part of our food and experience the best possible. 

Why is Carl’s Jr. only coming to Germany now?

Germany has always been a very interesting market for us and important for our expansion in Europe. We have been waiting for the right moment to enter the German market, and now that we are successfully represented in France, Denmark and Spain with a strong supply chain in place and a strong cross functional team based across the region, we see Germany as a natural extension. Despite the pandemic, the quick service sector in Germany has mastered the challenges and emerged stronger, suffering fewer losses in contrast to the rest of the catering industry. This shows there is a real appetite for QSR offerings in Germany, and that now is the right time to launch the Carl’s Jr. brand in Germany. 

Which books can you recommend?

Black box thinking: Marginal Gains and the secrets of high performance, Mathew Syed

Atomic Habits, James Clear

The magic of thinking BIG, David Schwartz

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

As I have said, I am fortunate to have an incredibly strong team around, me and we have a global goal to double our international footprint of restaurants. European growth will be critical to achieve this so within the next 5 years I expect to be growing our estate and continue to build our team to ensure we are poised and ready for the new 5 year target that follows.

What three tips do you have for founders?

Listen – both to your team and your partners, the answers are always there if you are prepared to hear them!

Plan – ensure you have a robust plan and the team around you to execute.

Be flexible, don’t be afraid to change the plan if it’s not working and learn from your mistakes.

Picture Source Carl´s Jr.

Thank you Tim Lowther for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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