Advice from the Experts: Des Pheby, Wok&Go founder and managing director

Industries 
Join Wok&Go, an eat in, takeaway and delivery food franchise, specialising in Asian fusion. Our franchise has already expanded across the UK, and we are actively seeking more franchisees to join our fresh, innovative brand.
Video

Wok&Go

  Opportunities:
In the UK
  Business Type:
Franchise
  Minimum Investment:
£100,000
  Training Provided:
Yes
  Home-based:
Yes
  Part time:
Yes

“I wanted to recreate the finest flavours from Thailand, China, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia, serving up generously filled noodle boxes and combining that with the theatre of sizzling woks in store.”

Since 2008, Wok&Go has been serving up fresh Asian fusion to hungry restaurant-goers in the UK. Just three years later they launched their first franchise and have since expanded into Kuwait and Dubai. Customers have responded positively to the restaurants’ diverse offerings, combining foods from around Asia and offering take-away, dine-in, and delivery options.

Much of Wok&Go’s success can be attributed to Des Pheby, founder and managing director.

For this installment of ‘Advice from the Experts’, Pheby told Franchise Direct what inspired the business, how Wok&Go remains a leader in the market, and what Wok&Go franchisees can expect day to day. 

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Can you fill us in on the background of the franchise?

We opened our first store in Chester in 2008. The concept of quality food, cooked fresh and served fast, tapped into today’s tastes and lifestyle choices and we grew quickly. By the end of 2010 we had a second Chester site and two Liverpool stores up and running. We officially launched Wok&Go as a franchise in 2011, opening our first franchises in Nottingham and Hull. We’ve since taken the brand international, with stores in Kuwait and Dubai. We’ve experienced year-on-year growth and Wok&Go is now one of the fastest growing food franchises in the UK, with over 20 stores across the country, the majority of these being franchise owned.

Why did you decide to open an Asian fusion restaurant?

I was in New York and spent a bit of time in the Asian dining districts there. As well as the tastes and aromas, it was the experience that caught my attention – delicious, freshly cooked food and quick service. I couldn’t think of anyone else doing that in the UK and saw a gap in the marketplace for a systemised, authentic Asian food chain targeted at time-poor customers who can eat on-the-hop at simple tables and benches, or take away in a box. I wanted to recreate the finest flavours from Thailand, China, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia, serving up generously filled noodle boxes and combining that with the theatre of sizzling woks in store.

You are an eat-in, takeaway, and delivery franchise; do you think catering to all three of those is necessary in today’s market?

For a concept like Wok&Go, it’s essential to have a flexible model. We’re appealing to a wide range of people and convenience is key. We sit somewhere between fast food and fast casual so whether it’s shoppers who want a quick pit stop, office workers who want lunch delivered to them or students on a night out (or in), we can cater to that and customers won’t see a drop off in quality. With the rise of online services like Deliveroo who only partner with establishments offering restaurant quality food, it’s been easy for us to tap into that market.

Wok&Go food offerings

What makes Wok & Go stand out from other opportunities?

Apart from the concept and the flexibility of our business model, one of the things which sets us apart is our managed franchise option, which we offer in addition to the traditional owner-operator model. This option allows franchisees to invest in Wok&Go with minimum involvement, while we manage the restaurant on their behalf and take care of the day-to-day running of the business. Managed franchises are popular with investors looking for multiple sites, aren’t familiar with running a business in this sector, who live abroad or are simply unable to be involved part- or full-time in the franchise.

We also offer greater support than most when it comes to sourcing premises. Our concept can be easily adapted for smaller food court locations, as well as larger stores and we provide help to identify and negotiate suitable sites. Our team has expertise and strong contacts in real estate and we’ve currently got a range of great opportunities ready to be matched with suitable franchisees.

What’s your best advice for prospective Wok & Go franchisees? Is there any experience required?

Our franchisees come from very varied career backgrounds, and few have previously worked in catering. We don’t require any retail or catering experience but to meet the demands of running a retail business, we recommend that franchisees have some management experience. Personality plays an important part and the traits we tend to see in our franchisees are that they are good at getting the best out of a team, committed to customer service, self-motivated and organised.

What kind of support can a franchisee expect?

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We offer a full turnkey service to our franchisees, so from locating and equipping premises to securing funding and guidance on HR and marketing, we’re there every step of the way.

In terms of training, before opening the doors of their store, a franchisee will receive a four-week course covering everything you need to know about running a store. This includes cooking our unique dishes, food and kitchen hygiene, managing stock levels and providing excellent customer service. Each store is then allocated an area manager who will visit every two weeks to ensure the store is meeting its full potential and provide support and guidance in growing the business.

We’ve also got an expert team who are on hand to provide ongoing support in recruitment and HR matters. All of our stores make use of our strong and vivid brand identity and popular loyalty scheme and receive assistance with marketing the store to customers and local businesses.

Describe a typical day in the life of a Wok & Go franchisee.

For franchisees who are based in their own store, after opening up they’ll go through a list of daily tasks – anything from reconciling the till from the day before to prepping food and getting ready for the lunch rush. Once team members start coming in, franchisees will usually then go on to dealing with emails, making phone calls, placing orders, reviewing marketing and so on. Throughout the day, they’ll often find themselves supporting staff with prepping and cooking orders, and making sure that the team are maintaining Wok&Go standards through customer service, portion control and upselling. There are lots of different areas of responsibility to cover as an owner-operator, but the feedback we get from our franchisees is that we have a well-organised and systemised structure in place to support them.

What’s next for the Wok & Go franchise?

Wok&Go chef

2017 will be a busy year for us. We’ve got a lot of new stores in the pipeline and are planning to open a new store every six weeks – we’ve already opened our first store of 2017 in Wolverhampton. We’re looking at non-conventional sites and pop-ups, and continuing to pursue international expansion with our eyes set on new territories, as well as building the existing franchise in Dubai.

With the recent launch of our new website, we’re placing a renewed focus on our digital marketing efforts through email marketing and social media campaigns to build the brand nationally and internationally, and keep us top of mind for fresh, tasty food in all our locations.

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