-George Sombonos founded a franchise which has become a household name in South Africa based on a recipe he bought on a trip to the USA and secretly swopped out in the kitchen of his father's roadhouse restaurant
- The name Chicken Licken was an idea of a waiter, originally the chicken outlet was named Golden Fried Chicken
- Sombonos died in November 2016, aged 67
From working in his father’s roadhouse in the 70s, to founding a massive franchise spanning borders, George Sombonos has shown how nothing succeeds like success.
Five years ago he set himself the goal of establishing the largest, homegrown fried chicken franchise in South Africa and was well on his way while enjoying every moment of the ride as he caught up to all his competitors.
Briefly.co.za has learned he was described as having set the stage for daring to go where no one else would, poking fun at its competitors, taking risks with new products and continuously innovating. Those were the ingredients to his own personal "secret recipe" to make the business of Chicken Licken a booming success, and let's face it, those are tactics that other chicken outlets today have been quick to emulate.
The ChickeThandiswa Mazwai speaks out about rescuing a girl who was being traffickedn Licken story all started in the early 70s while he was working in his father's roadhouse restaurant, the Dairy Den, in the south of Johannesburg. Not content to just work where he was, Sombonos convinced his father to send him on a trip to the US in 1972 where he spent his time absorbing restaurant trade journals and tasting food. “I would taste 12 hamburgers and 20 pieces of chicken every day until one day in Waco Texas, I tasted the best chicken ever,” he told a business publication in 2012.
Sombonos invited the owner of that particular chicken outlet to dinner to try to convince him to hand over his recipe. His best offorts resulted in the Texan agreeing to sell it for $5 000, which was $4 000 more than Sombonos had on him. So, rather than leave empty handed, he settled for a different, untested recipe from the Texan outlet.
Back home, he secretly swopped the existing chicken coating recipe at the Dairy Den with his new US recipe, without even letting his father know.
Sales increased enormously and the roadhouse started turning over up to R200 000 each month as news of the amazing chicken spread.
As the 80s began, Sombonos renamed the business, Golden Fried Chicken. Until, one day a waiter come up with the name Chicken Licken, which Sombonos registered for R300 and launched with a logo which was designed for only R75 and is still used decades later.
The first two Chicken Licken outlets were opened in Soweto and Alexandra, giving the brand a strong presence in townships during apartheid. It is believed that this is one of the reasons it built a very strong and loyal clientele.
After 1994, the franchise started gunning for the black middle class and started moving into the higher income areas. It has become very popular for its hot wings.
By 2013, Chicken Licken had 259 outlets in southern Africa, 247 in South Africa and 12 in Botswana.
George worked on his dream to open 400 local outlets until the company's 35th year when he died of cancer. He was remembered on the company website in November, 2016: “In our 35th year, we as a business and a family, stand in awe of his legacy.”
“We will remember his dedication, ingenuity and respect – not only as our CEO, but that of a family man of great integrity." The company said George would be remembered as much for his business acumen as his enterprising spirit. "He was a tastemaker, a trendsetter, and a pioneer who stood for what was right when everybody around him went the path of least resistance.”
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