Making a Splash

John Dory’s might be a relative newcomer to the sit-down seafood restaurant market, but it’s a serious contender when it comes to market share.

Making a Splash

Enter any large shopping complex or mall and you’ll notice the same three flagship restaurants – a steak house, pizza-and-pasta, and a seafood restaurant.

When Spur Corporation launched Spur Steak Ranches four decades ago, the aim was to build a solid national footprint, an aim that has been achieved and then some.

Then, in 2004, the franchise group purchased a 60% stake in John Dory’s, a small sit-down seafood franchise based in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The acquisitions team did its homework,” says John Dory’s COO Leonard Coetzee.

“There will always be fads in franchising, so it’s important to understand markets and know which sectors will remain stable with large growth potential, and which will slowly fizzle out.

“Sit-down seafood restaurants are a big area of growth, but the group didn’t want to spend time building a brand from scratch. Instead, it focused on finding a small, dynamic brand that had big growth potential. That brand was John Dory’s.”

Strong franchisor backing


Today the brand is owned 100% by the Spur Corporation, boasts a footprint of 30 restaurants, and is actively seeking and creating growth opportunities in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

“The foundations for a strong national footprint have been laid with care and attention to detail,” says Coetzee. “As a franchising group, Spur Corp is renowned for five core areas of excellence:

“Superior quality of product, consistently good service as a result of continuous training, a stabilised distribution supply chain, constant brand innovation and relevant marketing, as well as the leveraging of operational expertise and support to the franchisee, thereby ensuring best operating practice.

 “One of the best things I’ve experienced with this brand is how actively involved our franchisees are in brand building,” says Coetzee.

“They are active in their communities and celebrate opportunities to build their customer base.”

Marketing flair


All franchisees receive marketing support from Spur Group, with a dedicated team working on the brand and local store marketing.

The John Dory’s team has worked hard to position the brand as a challenger in the seafood and sushi sit-down category – evident in consistent marketing communication across all channels, including radio, print, digital and now television advertising launching in 2013, supplied by leading advertising agency 99cents.

John Dory’s recently increased its media expenditure by 15% to R8 322 420, compared to the previous financial year.

Within the seafood restaurant market the franchise has a 23% share of voice in above the line media channels.

Franchisees also like to get involved in their market place. “We love sharing photos and stories of what each franchisee is doing to grow their business,” says Coetzee. “It creates some good natured competition, shares success stories, and highlights how fun and engaging the brand can be.”

Evident in increased national turnover and foot count, the introduction of weekday specials has also proven to be a huge success and a growth lever for the brand.


 “We’ve seen a marked increase in foot traffic as a result,” says Coetzee.

“The Tuesday fish and chips special has seen a 49,1% increase in overall foot traffic, and a 19,3% increase in turnover.

Wednesday night’s half price sushi and Graça special has seen a 16,1% increase in foot traffic and a 6,5% increase in turnover year on year from 1 June 2012 to 30 June 2013.”

It’s all about the support

“Training is an essential ingredient in the success of John Dory’s,” shares Coetzee. “We use psychometric testing to find the best franchisee/operator/manager fit for each store, and then we ensure they get the appropriate training.

“It’s important to ensure that there is a mix of front-of-house and back-of-house personalities in each restaurant. Customers need to feel welcomed and enjoy a great vibe, but a back-of-house manager needs to provide the attention to detail necessary to ensure systems are followed and that the atmosphere is supported by excellent and consistent service and meals.

“Training plays a big role. There is a rigorous nine-week training process for all new franchisees and managers that takes place at one of three accredited training stores.

“By the time a new store opens everyone understands the systems, processes and values behind the John Dory’s name. Area managers are also available to ensure these elements are rolled out successfully once the store opens. “

The pros of belonging to an established franchising group cannot be overplayed. “We have lists of ten steps to do just about anything, from handling a complaint, to serving a table,” says Coetzee.

“These are based on years of franchising excellence and finding systems that work, whether you’re a steak ranch, a pizza pasta restaurant or a seafood franchise, like John Dory’s. There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience behind everything we do.”

For Coetzee, the role of any franchisor is simple – ultimately, it’s about providing franchisees with a return on investment.

“We need to protect our own brand, but this is also for the benefit of franchisees,” he says.

“We have created the best possible systems, relationships and values to ensure the highest likelihood of success. That’s why everyone loves John Dory’s.”

The real differentiator


The real success of any restaurant brand lies in how well it differentiates itself from competitors. John Dory’s focuses on four key differentiators.

  1.  A family friendly franchise. “Children love John Dory’s for a number of reasons – there’s a variety of delicious kids’ meals to choose from, the nautical theme appeals to them and there are various entertainment options, including activity sheets, giveaways and play areas at selected stores,” says Coetzee. “Adults with children choose restaurants that they perceive to be more family friendly, as we can clearly see in terms of increased weekend foot traffic. The play areas in particular have been a large growth strategy for the brand as a whole. We focus on educating kids about sustainable fishing and eating, so there’s a learning element too. It’s been very well received.”
  2. New in-store look and feel. John Dory’s recently underwent a brand repositioning that aligned hand-in-hand with a refreshed store design. “We took care to retain John Dory’s sense of comfort and authenticity, while adding new, streamlined brand signage that is clear, consistent and easy to apply. The result is a fun, modern and vibrant environment free of unnecessary clutter.”
  3. Versatile menu. “While John Dory’s is best known for its seafood and sushi, our menu provides lots of variety in the form of meats and grills. We have a dedicated chef who continually develops new dishes to diversify our menu offering, resulting in amazing dishes that become an institution in their own right,” says Coetzee.
  4. Reputable suppliers. “We work with only the most reputable suppliers and top brands whose products can be traced back to source by means of non-negotiable traceability processes. In other words, the number one and two brands in their respective fields,” says Coetzee. “We carefully choose and maintain these relationships for a number of reasons. Firstly, the top brands have the best quality products, and are consistent in their supply. Secondly, as the market leaders in each of their specific product fields, they are aware of any market influences that might affect that supply capability. Therefore, by forming these supplier relationships we ensure consistent supply of quality product at a competitive price to our franchisees all year round.”

Connecting with customers

The John Dory’s loyalty card has helped the brand to grow from strength to strength. Benefits include a R100 birthday voucher annually, 3% back on bill spend and a R50 voucher after a customer’s 5th visit.


John’s Club card stats:

Total active database: 119 891

Total spend:

  • Jan ’10 – Dec ’10 = R17,59 million
  • Total bills swiped = 66 764
  • Jan ’11 – Dec’11 = R28,84 million
  • Total bills swiped = 105 463
  • Jan ’12 – Dec ’12 = R42,42 million
  • Total bills swiped = 152 895

Fancy yourself a franchisee?

  • Store details: John Dory’s
  • Ideal restaurant size: 300m2 to 350m2 internal space with 50m2 to 80m2 mall or external spillage area. Used for kids‘ offering and al fresco dining etc.
  • Set-up costs: R3,5 million gross. John Dory’s requires 40% unencumbered cash, therefore R1,4 million.
  • License fee: R100 000 + Vat Franchise fee: 5% management, 4% advertising.
  • Development Hot spots: Upington; Bethlehem; Randpark Ridge, JHB; Forest Hill City, Centurion; Ellisras; Kathu; Wonderboom Junction, Pretoria; Savannah Mall, Pretoria; Hermanus, Western Cape; Milkwood Mall, Western Cape; Greenacres Mall, Port Elizabeth; Bay West Mall, Western Cape.

Ideal franchisee

Honest, hardworking, humble, loves working with people and food.




Nadine Todd
About the Author
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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