Mad Butcher back in family hands
With the Mad Butcher franchise back in family hands, new owners Michael Morton and Julie Leitch are making plans to grow the business and restore its sizzle. The couple bought back the business earlier in the year from publicly-listed company Veritas Investments, which owned it for five years.
“Both Julie and I have a strong emotional attachment to the Mad Butcher brand, which of course was started by her father, Sir Peter Leitch, almost 50 years ago. We’re passionate about the brand and didn’t want it going anywhere else. The success of the Mad Butcher has always been about it being very much part of the local community, combined with the family-owned and operated nature of the stores,” says Morton.
“We’re friends with a lot of the franchisees and suppliers and we want to get back to running it like a family business with everyone in the same boat and going in the same direction.
“First, Julie and I are focusing on stabilising the business and making sure all the franchisees are secure and making decent money. Then we want to grow by improving the stores and launching new products and services.”
Changes are already underway with new initiatives such as:
* The trial of Chicken Connoisseur at the Botany store, a “store within a store” that offers free-range chicken and a delicious variety of readymade chicken meals
* Online ordering via Facebook and instore pick-up, with plans to offer delivery options too
* Expansion of their very popular range of meat packs across all 26 stores, making Mad Butcher “the home of the Meat Box”
* Increased support for local communities by providing low-cost “sausage and bread” packs for sports clubs, school and other organisations to use for fundraising.
“Mad Butcher is a great brand and we want to restore it to its heyday. And the public need Mad Butcher in their lives because, if we weren’t around, they’d be paying 20% to 30% more for their meat. If you look at the towns and cities we’re in, the supermarkets try to match our prices. If we’re not there to keep them honest, they put their prices up. And our stores are all run by hard-working Kiwis, often husband and wife teams, who employ 15 to 20 staff locally,” says Morton.
And many of those staff have been with Mad Butcher a very long time. Morton himself is a 20-plus year veteran, while Julie has worked in the business since she was a child.
Operations manager for the Mad Butcher Group, Dan Adams, has also been there more than two decades, as have many of the franchisees. Fifteen and 20 years’ tenure is commonplace, while someone who’s been there eight years is considered a bit of a newcomer.
Over the years, the Mad Butcher has been a major supporter of worthy causes, including Ronald McDonald House, the burns unit and Kidz First at Middlemore Hospital.
“We’ll continue doing that sort of thing because, at heart, we’re old-fashioned butchers who are very much part of the local community, just like the ones your grandparents used to go to,” says Morton.
Reflecting on the Veritas years, he says the sale to a publicly-listed company did not go as they thought it would. “I was there, yes, but it was managed as a public company. Julie and I would have run things differently. And now we have the opportunity to do just that.”