Chicken in Turkey: Mary Brown's aims for Istanbul

Mary Brown's has made the leap to international status, opening its first location outside of Canada in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
Mary Brown's CEO Greg Roberts talks about the company's arrival in Istanbul, Turkey 12:50

Mary Brown's, a famous chicken and taters company started in Newfoundland and Labrador, has gone international with its first location outside of Canada in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

Greg Roberts, CEO of Mary Brown's Inc., said the emerging market in Turkey was the big draw.

"Right now, we've got a large part of the world that's coming into the middle class, and they love branded North American food, especially the chicken product," Roberts said.

The Mary Brown's restaurant during its first day of business in Istanbul. The store opened Nov. 27. (Courtesy Mary Brown's)

"I find the chicken is really accepted all around the world, and we have a supply available, so right now Turkey is doing really well, the economy is doing great, and also from a logistics point of view it opens us up to the greater Middle East and also Eastern Europe."

According to Roberts, Mary Brown's is trying to get ahead of the larger chain restaurants in establishing brand recognition in that area of the world.

Roberts said the company is hoping to have around 100 stores throughout Turkey in the next five years.

Nigel Beattie, president and chief operating officer of Mary Brown's Inc., said the store has been successful since opening a little more than a week ago.

"It's been very good [so far]. Obviously, no brand recognition at this stage, but we've had a lot of people, a lot of people tried the product, and [we've received] really good comments back," he said.

Beattie said the company has kept some of its signature English menu items, like the Big Mary burger and taters. However, they've added some menu items to appeal to more traditional Turkish tastes.

Mary Brown's CEO Greg Roberts, left, Muharrem Buyukbahceci, Mary's Famous Bakirkoy and Area Developer for Bakirkoy, and John Holmes, the Canadian Ambassador to Turkey at the ribbon cutting ceremony. (Courtesy Mary Brown's)

Turkey is fresh-obsessed

Mary Brown's had some help breaking ground in the international market from Ontario-based firm aQmen Inc.

Quamar Rizvi, president and CEO of aQmen Inc., said the company looked at four key factors to find out which market would offer the biggest opportunity for success.

"Essentially, what we tried to do was determine which country would best meet four key criteria for us, and the first and foremost of which was fresh-emphasis," he said.

"In Canada, we prepare our chicken fresh, it's not frozen, it's hand-cut daily in-store, it's similar to what you'd find in a fine dining restaurant … and Turkey is fresh-obsessed when it comes to food."

Rizvi said is a launchpad for the fast-food franchise to expand into other parts of the Middle East if successful.

The Mary Brown's recipe was first introduced to Canadians in 1969, when Pat Tarrant and Cyril Fleming opened the first location in St. John's, under the name Golden Skillet.

They opened two more locations in the first year under the original name, but soon changed the company to Mary Brown's.

Mary Brown's has expanded over the years and now has more than 95 locations across Canada.