Flamboyant and controversial businessman Bambang Rachmadi is trying to turn around his recently troubled business fortunes by transforming his 13 former McDonaldâ€™s fast food outlets into a new food brand, â€śToniJackâ€™s Indonesia.â€ť
The abrupt rebranding included the first-ever McDonaldâ€™s outlet in Indonesia, located at Jakartaâ€™s first modern department store, the Sarinah shopping mall.
The change was made so hastily that instead of being replaced, the McDonaldâ€™s sign at the mall was covered with a tarpaulin advertising the new brandâ€™s logo, a one-eyed pirate. The famed golden arches were still clearly visible underneath the flapping sheet.
â€śI had to adopt a new strategy after the end of my partnership with McDonaldâ€™s,â€ť a visibly tense Bambang said at a press conference on Thursday at Sarinah.
â€śIâ€™m deeply sorry about [the end of the partnership] but Iâ€™m sure our employees understand the situation.â€ť
Bambang added that about 800 workers would have lost their jobs if he had not continued the business under the new brand.
The year 2009 has not been kind to Bambang. First, his small bank, the unfortunately named Bank IFI (pronounced â€śiffyâ€ť), was liquidated by Bank Indonesia in April, with the central bank later investigating it for alleged irregularities before handing the case over to the police.
This was followed by a long-running public dispute between Bambang and fast food giant McDonaldâ€™s, which began after the US-based corporation transferred his sole franchisee rights to the Sosrodjojo business family in March.
The corporate giant is believed to have sold the rights to recoup some $135 million in unpaid debts allegedly owed to it by McDonaldâ€™s Indonesia.
Bambang was left with only 13 owner-operated McDonaldâ€™s outlets, and the right to operate under the McDonaldâ€™s brand until Oct. 1.
He has argued the rightsâ€™ transfer was unfair and is pursuing legal action against the global fast food giant.
Meanwhile, Bambang said the new name and logo were inspired by his nickname as a child.
â€śI used the name Toni because when I was a teenager people called me Tony. Jack came from the idea that fast food outlets should have a family theme, so I picked a pirate theme and the name Jack,â€ť he said.
â€śIâ€™m sure ToniJackâ€™s products taste better than our competitorsâ€™. So our tagline is ‘better than that one,â€™ â€ť he said, laughing.
As sampled by the Jakarta Globe, the offerings at ToniJackâ€™s appeared not unlike those at a McDonaldâ€™s, and included multi-decked burgers, spicy chicken and french fries.
However, while the buns and burger meat were similar, none of the trademark McDonaldâ€™s sauces were available. The packaging appeared basic, as did the food. The cheapest meal, the â€śJack Chicken One,â€ť retailed for Rp 15,000.
To rebuild his fast-food empire, Bambang is teaming up with Suryo Sulisto, the chief commissioner of the Bakrie groupâ€™s crown jewel, PT Bumi Resources.
â€śBy 2014, if we have 100 outlets like [ToniJackâ€™s Sarinah outlet], we could go public,â€ť he said.
Amir Karamoy, the chairman of the Indonesian Franchise Association (AFI), welcomed Bambangâ€™s move to launch the local brand.
â€śIâ€™m optimistic it will become a leading franchise and will be able to compete with other established fast food giants,â€ť he said.
McDonaldâ€™s marketing and communications director, Dian Supolo, also welcomed the new arrival.
â€śWe are looking forward to healthy competition with the new brand,â€ť Dian said.