MEAT & GREET

Kazakhstan 2016 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Anuar Utemuratov, President and Chairman of Burger King Kazakhstan, on the growth of the chain in Kazakhstan and its contribution to the economy.

Anuar Utemuratov
BIOGRAPHY
Anuar Utemuratov is President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of LLP QSR, represents the Burger King® brand in Kazakhstan. Anuar handles the operational and strategic management of LLP QSR. Previously, he worked as Chief Risk Manager at Forte Bank and as an analyst in the investment banking division of JPMorgan Chase. In 2004, he graduated from the Hult International Business School in London.

How has Burger King® performed since opening its first restaurant in Kazakhstan?

We opened our first restaurant in May 2012 in the Mega Alma-Ata shopping center in Almaty. Since then, we have been able to grow exponentially and now have 27 restaurants operating in Kazakhstan, including five Drive Thrus. Now we are the fastest-growing international fast food chain in the burger segment in the country and, in a number of regions such as Karaganda, Pavlodar, Aktau, Atyrau, and Aktobe we are the first international fast food brand to open restaurants there. In terms of actual guests, last year we had over 6 million visitors to our restaurants compared to 4 million the previous year. It means that everyday more than 15,000 guests visit our restaurants across the country. In terms of total sales, we reached $22 million at the end of last year for the full year. We have been able to expand quite aggressively over the past couple of years by opening 27 restaurants in less than four years and will continue to grow. Of course, that was in a certain economic climate. Regardless, we think that it is important to continue to grow. On April 15, 2016 we unveiled our first restaurant in Uralsk, which is the eighth city that now has a Burger King® restaurant. So it marks a big milestone for the company because Kazakhstan is a large country and being able to grow and expand is challenging due to logistical issues and the great distances between cities. Today the company is also one of the biggest employers in the sector. As of February 2016, 550 people are employed at Burger King® restaurants. By the end of 2016 the plan is to increase this to 650 people. Annually the company provides jobs and career opportunities for 100-120 people, especially for local young people.

What is your business strategy given Kazakhstan's current unstable economic situation?

Our strategy is to ensure that guests keep coming back to our restaurants. Providing excellent customer service is a pillar of Burger King®. In addition we continue to offer guests our King Savers value menu that we rolled out two years ago to make sure we are always affordable for customers and also to meet and exceed guests' expectations, which means being able to provide the best quality food with great service at reasonable prices. That's what a good business is all about.

What are the company's priorities for the year ahead?

We will focus on further developing service quality so as to exceed our customers' expectations. To achieve this goal, we will soon launch the BK University, which will provide educational programs for our restaurant managers so as to improve skills and knowledge in management. We will also continue to expand on the market and plan to launch about six new restaurants in 2016, including four Drive Thrus. Our aim is to introduce the Kazakhstani people to the Drive Thru format and promote it as a convenient way for drivers to order food without needing to get out of the car. This year we will launch a Drive Thru at a filling station in Almaty. In late 2015 we launched the first such Drive Thru in Aktobe, which is operating successfully and serves more than 3,000 cars per month. Such a format is quite popular in other countries worldwide; for example, Burger King® is planning to open 150 fast food areas at petrol stations all over Spain by 2018 and such a format has already been developed significantly in Germany and South Africa. Offering a large range of complementary services for customers stopping off to refuel is a fairly successful strategy. Additionally we are working to further develop our delivery service across Kazakhstan and continue progress with the King Savers value menu platform. We are also developing our offering for children by introducing a birthday package and iClick interactive game zones in our restaurants. This year we are organizing and participating in a number of CSR projects. One of the most exciting upcoming projects is a scholarship program for Kazakhstani students.