Mr Bigg’s, one-time most sought-after fast food restaurant, is struggling to deliver on its slogan and compete in a Quick Service Restaurant market that’s in a shake-out phase.
From the late 1970s to early 2000s, Mr. Bigg’s was the prominent fast-food chain for every Nigerian, with outlets situated in almost all communities, especially in the South-West. Just like MTN Nigeria, Mr. Bigg’s was “everywhere you go.”
It was a home away from home for most Nigerians, regardless of their social classes, as it offered delicacies that left customers with a delicious experience, but 46 years later, the company is gradually winding up, losing the market it once dominated to the likes of Tasty Fried Chicken, The Place, KFC and some other Nigerian-owned fast food restaurants.
The one-time household name is now a fading memory among Nigerians and it’s telling on the company’s outlets. Within the past few years, Mr. Biggs has been cutting back on its locations, shutting down outlets in areas like Ojota, Ogudu, Sobo in Akowanjo-Egbeda road, while operational outlets are being deserted by Nigerians.
How Mr. Bigg’s problems started
Self-inflicted harm: Mr. Bigg’s adopted a business strategy that allowed it to operate by proxy. The company subscribed to franchising and monetising its brand for QSR entrepreneurs interested in using its name to capture market share. This system helped the company to break new grounds faster, and meet growing demand in its early years.
Other start-ups went in quest for survival, as competing against the UAC-owned fast-food chain was considered a suicide mission. But while the franchise move aided the popularity and expansion of Mr. Bigg’s, the franchise outlets couldn’t maintain the quality assurance that it was known for. It was no longer serving delicious experience, so customers went in search of it elsewhere.
Rising competition: Unlike three decades ago, when Mr. Biggs reigned supreme as the only option, the QSR market has become saturated and Nigerians are now spoilt for choice. Over the years, the likes of KFC, TFC, The Place and many other local fast-food restaurants have sprung up to meet the change in customers’ taste preferences, thereby, replacing Mr. Biggs.
The growth rate of the aforementioned companies shows that Nigerians were longing for something different but Mr. Biggs failed to meet their expectations.
As expected, when customers’ taste preference favours a fast food brand, its demand increases while demand for the outlet whose service goes against the preference declines. The latter is the story of Mr. Bigg’s.
Mr. Bigg’s in declining stage: Aside rice and chicken, Mr. Bigg’s is known for its meat pie – one of the most sought-after snacks in the country way back. However, both have come under criticism. The rice was said to be tasteless, while the meatpie has been dubbed ‘Air pie’ in some quarters. Some customers joked about buying beans to make up for the lack of expected filling in the pies served in some Mr. Bigg’s outlets.
The business lifespan of the QSR known for having Nigeria’s first drive-through restaurant seems to be exiting the maturity stage and entering that of decline, as it seems the company has nothing new to offer Nigerians.
What Nigerians are saying
While speaking to a media practitioner, Ukhueleigbe Zaccheaus, Nairametrics was told, “Come to Akowonjo, beside D-Demz (Sobo street) Mr. Bigg’s is small and dead.”
Tola Oyeyemi, a businesswoman, said, “The last time I ate at Mr. Bigg’s was two months ago and the food was not good. It can’t be compared to how it was before, so I prefer going to Just Food over Mr. Bigg’s.”
For Gabriel Alabi, another media practitioner, the last time he ate at Mr. Bigg’s was during his teenage years.
“I can’t really recall the specific date I stopped eating at Mr. Bigg’s, but I know it was when it used to be like an amusement park to us. I don’t go there because I’m not a fan. Then, it was just because of the buzz about Mr. Bigg’s.”
While around Osogbo, an undergraduate, Adejoke, said, “They have shutdown. Not that they have really shutdown oo! Like they (customers) are not rushing it like before. Sometimes they (Mr. Bigg’s) microwave their turkey.”
See other reactions below.
What happened to Mr Biggs?
— Man of the Year? (@songstyl_) July 12, 2019
So hungry and the only place to get snack around is Mr Biggs at Maryland. See air inside chicken pie. Sigh pic.twitter.com/yLKqF1nJc0
— Tolu Robinho Adewumi (@tolurobinho) July 13, 2019
lmao, Mr biggs is now for parking cars
— BABA ALI (@_FreshAA) July 13, 2019
I wonder if Mr. Biggs is still an eatery or a road direction. "If u reach Mr. Biggs, turn right. Don't enter o, just pass it" ? pic.twitter.com/bfc8e6US2M
— MONITORING_SPRIT ASSISTANT⭕ (@ItsAyanfeoluwa) July 14, 2019
Well here’s your best buyer’s guide.
– Chicken Republic: Jollof rice & chicken, Rice & beans and more recently, sandwich.
– The Place: Yam porridge-plantain & pepper stew, Jollof Rice & Asun… everything at the counter sha ?
– TFC: Ofada
– KFC: Chicken & chips
– MrBiggs: 0
— First of His Name (@CyrusAgbo) July 8, 2019
Mr Biggs meat pie is disgusting
— 黑人 (@holyusman247) July 8, 2019
Please after Mr Biggs, Tantalizers should enter the grave. Wtf did I just eat????
— Dad. (@cloverdaddy) July 7, 2019
DJ exclusive brand is like Mr Biggs. If you know you know ?????#BBNaija
— Folakemi Winifred (@CreamyWinny) July 6, 2019
Mr Biggs? How long ago was this?
— ?Dah-Ikwerre- Boy? (@Soft80906887) July 16, 2019
Impact of the company’s fall: Mr. Bigg’s’ struggle across Nigeria has a negative impact on the country’s employment numbers, as it’s the largest fast food chain in Nigeria. It is one of the companies that middle and lower-class individuals depend on for job opportunities.
Donned in the company’s famous red and yellow uniform, undergraduates and secondary school leavers make up the workforce of Mr. Bigg’s. They depend on the company to earn in order to improve their standards of living.
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The struggle being experienced by the company threatens retrenchment and disengagement of staff, increasing the number of individuals in the labour market in a country already bogged down by slow growth, and high unemployment level.
Is this downward trend the end of Mr. Bigg’s? that depends on the management’s willingness to innovate and adapt to the changing preference of customers. And considering the years of experience the company has in the restaurant business, it’s capable of transforming into a old wine in a new bottle.