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Nigeria’s beloved restaurant Mr Biggs was a trending topic on Twitter two weeks ago. A lot of people poured out their hearts reminiscing about the food and what the restaurant meant to them. It was a bitter-sweet moment for Mr Biggs and her customers.

In the comments, some wondered what had become of the brand, so last week, I hosted an interesting live interview session with Mrs. Eustacia Ngozi Ogunsusi, the Marketing Services Manager of UAC restaurants, owners of Mr Biggs Restaurants. We had an insightful discussion about the reasons the 34 years old brand lost face and the steps she is currently taking to reclaim her customers’ love.

Based on my discussions with Mrs. Eustacia, I made a note on key lessons brands can take home from Mr Biggs story by analyzing three major challenges that plagued the brand and the solution they applied to tackle them.


Challenge #1:
Adequately managing a full franchise model to achieve a uniform standard of operation across the board.

Franchising can make or mar a business depending on its application or operation. Mr. Biggs adapted the full franchise business model and while it positively impacted the business with rapid expansion & growth, it was also one of the reasons for the brand’s apparent decline, as franchisees struggled to keep up with the Mr. Biggs standards due to the peculiarities of their environment.

According to Mrs. Eustacia, Mr. Biggs franchisees tried their best but certain challenges peculiar to the different environments they were located made it hard for standards to be met. She gave an example of the unstable power situation in the country and the diverse customer taste preferences in the different locations.

The solution:
UAC restaurants had to close down some MR. Biggs stores that were below standard and opened some corporately owned restaurants which serve as the ideal standard that franchisees must emulate.

The lesson
Consider all the possibilities before settling on a business model and take it slowly. Don’t rush the business expansion process especially in a peculiar market like Nigeria. Each location comes with different challenges.


Challenge #2:
Competing to increase or maintain market share

Mr. Biggs had the first-mover advantage being the pioneer QSR brand in Nigeria, with over 180 restaurants in over 40 cities in East Africa, Nigeria and Ghana to be precise, they were top of mind, with strong brand love and heritage spanning decades, yet they lost a huge chunk of their market share to newer QSRs.

When asked to compare the average daily sales figures of Mr. Biggs now to that of 20 years ago, Mrs. Eustacia admitted that it wouldn’t be a fair comparison because then Mr. Biggs was about the only fast food restaurant and had a lot of branches across the country but now, there are competitors everywhere and not as many Mr. Biggs branches.

She also mentioned that consumer preferences and tastes have changed over time. It was a struggle to balance everything and keep up with the trends.

The Solution
Mr. Biggs rebranded and constantly revamped its stores; her recipes also evolved to meet changing consumer preferences

The lesson:
No Brand is too big to fail. Brands must constantly innovate and adapt to evolving consumer trends to stay in business. Do not wait until it is too late. Be attentive to competitors and even more obsessed with customers. Customer experience must be the core of every business.


Challenge #3
Rebranding – It is way harder than it sounds

“The feedback I’m getting from this interview is that we need to heighten communication” – Mrs. Eustacia Ogunsusi
Even though the brand started its rebranding process about 10 years ago and established model restaurants like Mr. Biggs at Northwest filling station, VGC, Lagos in 2019, it still has a long way to go especially with regards to publicity and change in perception as a lot of people are still unaware that the brand has undergone some changes.

The Solution

Apart from advertising & PR, Mr Biggs is also leaning on her younger sister, Debonairs for support through brand association. The rebranded Mr Biggs restaurants share a building without internal walls with Debonairs. A good way to introduce the rebranded Mr Biggs to the teeming debonair customers and winning some brand love and goodwill from the sister brand.

The Lesson
It is a lot easier to create a new brand than to revive an existing one. While UAC restaurants is still in the process of trying to revive the passion for Mr. Biggs and change its perception with the rebranding process, they have since successfully established Debonairs, a premium pizza brand that is a major competitor in the market.
The route to rebranding is long and torturous, it would be better not to let a brand decay. Innovate daily, keep the brand young.

Have you watched the interview? What other brand lessons did you learn from it?


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