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Bird spreads wings

LUNCH pioneer Nicholas Bird is taking his Perth-based make-your-own sandwich operation offshore, establising a Canadian franchise for his six-year-old business Mr Bird’s MYO.

Mr Bird has grown a 17-store national empire out of a business which largely lets its own customers do the work, putting together rolls and sandwiches just the way they like it from a wide selection of fresh ingredients.

A franchisee and three staff is all that is needed to operate a store where the food is sold by weight.

Store number 18 for this entrepreneur will be in Ottawa, where Mr Bird hopes his operation’s success in the much higher cost regime of Australia will translate to considerable profitability in North America.

“Australia is at least 10 years ahead of Canada and the US in terms of food,” Mr Bird said.

“We are talking about quality.”

“The sky’s the limit over there because it is so far behind.”

Even paying well above the minimum labour costs at $C6.50/hour (compared to Australia’s $12-$13/hour) and lease running at $C40,000 (against $60,000 here), Mr Bird reckons there is much better margins selling a sandwich for $C4 that $4.60 in Perth or Sydney.

But the Perth sandwich czar acknowledges it will not all be easy, particularly in a city where labour is short.

“A Burger King store had to close its doors there because it could not get any staff,” he said.

“Everyone tends to knock our staff here but believe me the tipping in Canada and America doesn’t lead to better service.”

Mr Bird said he came up with the concept at 3am one morning while running the Fishy Affair restaurant in Northbridge.

“I had never been in the lunchbar business,” he said.

“I started looking at the business and realised that it was one of the few food industries that had not changed with the times.”

His first store was under Central Park on Hay Street in central Perth.

“One guy said it was the first time he got the right amount of mustard on his sandwich,” he said.

“But not everyone is turned on by making their own sandwich, if you find a niche you have to be consistent to keep it.”

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