Is there a Malaysian who hasn’t heard the icon? The Chicken Rice Shop strum?
keyword Bawk, bawk, bawkS
It’s one of the most well-known local F&B chains, but if you’ve never heard of them (or their catchy jingle), The Chicken Rice Shop serves, you guessed it, chicken rice.
What’s not to love? As the founder put it herself meanwhile an interview with BFM from 2012“It’s halal, it’s healthy, it’s balanced and it’s chicken that’s universal.”
But the company’s story certainly has more substance (pun intended), right?
Especially after we found out that TCRS’ first store opened in Taipan USJ, where our office is located, we knew we needed to investigate further what makes this chicken rice store special The Chicken Rice Shop that many Malaysians know and love.
The mother-daughter duo behind it
Before becoming the founder of The Chicken Rice Shop (TCRS), Gaik Wong already had a lot of experience with chickens. She was COO and director of KFC Holdings (M) Bhd and worked in the fast food industry for 25 years before founding TCRS, she told BFM.
She eventually retired from KFC Holdings, but that didn’t mean she retired from the scene.
Interestingly, it was Gaik’s daughter, Wong Kah Lin, who pushed her mother to start the new company.
The two saw an opportunity in the market for a fast food joint with an international concept, but one that served local dishes.
Given that Gaik’s mother-in-law is from Hainan and her own parents are from Penang, the decision to focus on chicken rice seemed like a natural progression.
With Gaik’s background in F&B and Kah Lin’s background in accounting, the two opened the first TCRS store in 2000.
Good deal with good food
Like any good chicken rice stand, TCRS offers traditional steamed chicken as well as crispy fried chicken. There are also grilled honey and chicken with soy sauce options.
Along with these signature chicken and rice offerings, the chain also serves local specialties including Hainanese curried chicken, Nyonya Pai tea, Penang Rojak, and more.
Still, these dishes aren’t exactly hard to find. Heck, the main offering of chicken rice is one of the easiest local delicacies to find. I bet there’s a chicken rice vendor near you right now.
Even Gaik himself told BFM that “chicken rice is generic.”
So given that chicken rice, for example, is available in local kopitiams that sell the dish much cheaper, what sets the brand apart from the competition? Why would you choose TCRS over your neighborhood street vendor or warung?
This conundrum was addressed during the BFM interview.
The mother-daughter duo went on to explain that it’s not so much about the dish itself as it is about all the other value propositions TCRS offers.
Kah Lin further expressed her point by citing Western chains like McDonalds and KFC as examples.
To put it another way, fried chicken is nothing new or unique, and as much as KFC would like you to believe, their fried chicken isn’t necessarily the best fried chicken in the world.
So, fried chicken is something commonplace, and KFC’s dish could be considered nothing special. How did you make your brands what they are today?
It’s about the branding and positioning of the company and how it is run.
Kah Lin had said, “I think our position is that we believe in a family restaurant. It’s a place where everyone can come together and the food we serve is actually suitable for every age profile.”
In other words, TCRS is a place where you can bring both your kid and grandma, and both of them would probably both enjoy the dishes.
As a chain, TCRS is also able to standardize its dishes and provide a reliable halal dining experience, which is key as it expands in Malaysia.
“What is important in every company?” was a question Gaik Wong asked on the radio show.
She further replied: “You have to be innovative. Of course, your core still has to be there, your chicken rice signature still has to be there… Many companies fail due to a lack of innovation.”
In 2012, they launched new dishes every few months. You’d think those efforts might have faded by now, but TCRS actually still releases new dishes every now and then. It was only recently introduced Ayam Kilau And Sambal Hijau Kilau Offers.
TCRS also now has a loyalty app called SedapZto allow users to earn points and redeem rewards.
chicken rice and more
A couple of serial entrepreneurs, Kah Lin and Gaik’s TCRS Restaurants, later launched a number of other F&B chains that also grew in popularity over the years.
There’s DubuYo, established in 2008. Originally known as Dubu Dubu, this chain serves Korean halal food.
Established in 2011 is Sepiring. It’s a return to our local flavors and served dishes like Nasi kunyit with curried chicken, ipoh hor fun and – hey! – Hainanese chicken rice.
TCRS Restaurants also operated another chain called Pancake House, a Manila franchise. Unfortunately, the chain closed in Malaysia in 2019.
Perhaps another distinguishing feature of a good businessman is that they know when it’s time to let go.
And they also know when to get off.
The Chicken Rice Shop reportedly opened in June 2019 acquired by Japanese F&B giant Zensho Holdings for 220 million RM.
This is why the SedapZ loyalty app also includes restaurants like Sukiya and Ichiban Ramen as both brands are owned by Zensho Holdings.
In Report of Zensho Holdings for the year ended March 31, 2022It was reported that their fast food businesses had earned around 150,673 million yen (around RM4,985,562,940). However, it also includes the other fast-food chain, Hamazushi, a 100-yen sushi chain.
According to TCRS’s branch locator, there appear to be 135 TCRS branches bringing Hainanese halal chicken rice to Malaysians.
Looking back at the history and growth of TCRS, it’s fascinating to see how far a company focused on plain Hainanese chicken rice, which isn’t hard to come by, has come this far.
Of course, this is all thanks to Gaik and Kah Lin’s business acumen and deep industry knowledge. The duo already knew they had a recipe for success when they opened their very first store in Taipan, USJ.
As Gaik said in an interview with The Edge in 2012“If you want to get into business, you have to make it big or not do it at all.”
But is there now a room for newcomers? Will The Chicken Rice Shop continue? The Go to the chicken rice store?
With chains like Chicken Rice People (also Halal) are popping up, Malaysians may be on the lookout for something new, but TCRS undoubtedly remains an iconic and widely available source of “generic” chicken rice and a healthy option in Malaysia.
- Find out more about The Chicken Rice Shop Here.
- Read more articles about Malaysian F&B companies Here.
Selected image source: Penang Women Entrepreneurs / The Chicken Rice Shop