Branding has evolved from being a mark of ownership to an experience, both online and offline. This has changed the way consumers view and engage with brands and has led to an age where brands have to take more accountability for their actions and be more transparent in their communications.

In this blog post I will be focusing on South Africa’s largest branded food service franchiser, Famous Brands. I will discuss how their portfolio of brands are managed or can be managed, and look at the factors that impact the performance and perception of their corporate and product brands.


With the vast selection of social media platforms available today, where consumers can voice their experiences of a brand in seconds, It is vital to maintain a good reputation. Maintaining a good reputation amongst stakeholders and customers becomes increasingly difficult when more brands are added to a brand’s existing portfolio, economic changes occur, customer demographics change, markets change or competition offers a better value proposition.

These are some of the things that impact the growth, reputation and sustainability of a brand. How brands reacts toward these changes are what sets them apart and builds solid reputations in the mind of its consumers & stakeholders.


The management responsibility of a corporate brand lies with the CEO and managing a portfolio requires a long-term view. Being one of South Africa’s largest branded food service franchisers, Famous Brands comprises of a portfolio of 25 restaurants. Home to Steers, Mugg & Bean, The Breadbasket, Tashas, Salsa, Milky lane, Fego, Mythos, Turn ‘n Tender, Wimpy and Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) in the UK, just to name but a few.

In total they have 2 853 restaurants across South Africa, Africa, the Middle East and United Kingdom. Ensuring that they manage their brands effectively is an enormous task and requires a solid strategy for each.

When they acquired Gourmet Burger Kitchen in 2016 – gourmet burgers had just become the next big thing in casual dining in the UK. Selling craft beer, mango milkshakes, truffle cheese fries, pulled pork and gluten-free burgers in their stylish stores. With a change in customer behaviour towards healthier food options, the challenging economy, socio-political environments and intensified price competition, things weren’t looking optimal for Famous Brands especially after the GBK acquisition.

After the acquisition, which happened shortly after the Brexit debacle, the group’s sales started plummeting and showed negative sales growth and massive losses. CEO Darren Hele took action reassuring stakeholders that the group should be able to regain customer confidence and brand relevance by focusing their efforts on improving management, operations and costs in these markets moving forward.

In his own words Hele said “While this disappointing result is primarily attributable to the prevailing economic and socio-political environment in the UK, a range of interventions are currently being implemented in the business which are anticipated to have a positive impact on future performance. These include intensified focus on the management of new restaurants opened, improved operational efficiencies and enhanced cost controls,”.

For corporate brands with large portfolios it is essential that they are completely transparent towards stakeholders and customers. Melewar and Karaosmanoglu (2006) state that reputational capital is beneficial as more customers and investors will be attracted to the corporation’s products, resulting in higher prices. If Famous Brands is not able to repair their reputation they will incur further losses that will be far greater than monetary value.


Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Before attempting to grow a brand’s portfolio and maintaining a positive reputation, careful consideration needs to be given to the strategy. Make sure you understand the needs of your customers and stakeholders. Understand the socio-economic drivers that influence customer behaviour. Review the brand on a regular basis and stay relevant.



Melewar, T.C. & Karaosmanoglu, E. 2006. Seven dimensions of corporate identity. European Journal of Marketing, 40 (7/8):846-869

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