After 90, Beijing young man started his business, selling 2.1 billion yuan a year and sprinting to thousands of stores.

Text | World Network Business

On an ordinary weekend, there are rows of young people holding snacks such as milk tea and sugar-fried chestnuts in front of various shops, and a heat wave mixed with the aroma of fried skewers, scones, rice noodles and other foods is coming …

This snack street, named "Golden Street", which is only a few hundred meters long, connects the core business district of Wanxianghui, Xiaoshan District, Hangzhou. There are various shops on both sides of the street, one for Tasting in three steps and one for tea in five steps. Among the densely arranged shops, Kuafu fried string shops are crowded with waiting riders and young customers.

In a small store of about 20 square meters, the ingredients are refrigerated in the freezer at the door. Customers can take their own skewers, and two or three shop assistants shuttle back and forth, busy ordering, dipping juice and spreading materials, and ringing reminders from time to time in their ears.

"The order volume of this fried string shop is very large, and it is several times every meal and weekend. The average price of takeaway orders is about 30 yuan." In the gap between taking orders, the little brother who sent takeout a few kilometers near Vientiane Hui told Tianxia Online Merchants.

The flow of people reflects the change of consumption habits. Recently, Kuafu Fried String announced the completion of the B round of financing, with Joy Capital and Juebi Fund jointly leading the investment, and Buer Capital and Huaying Capital, the old shareholder, followed suit. At this point, Kuafu Fried String has taken nearly 500 million yuan in financing. After the completion of the B round of financing, Kuafu Fried String announced that it would sprint the scale of "Wandian".

In 2018, Yuan Zelu, who just withdrew from the "West Young Master Meat Sandwich" project, aimed at the track of marinated fried skewers and started his third venture. Narrow-door dining shows that in the past five years, the number of fried skewers in Kuafu has expanded to 2,000, covering over 240 cities. In 2023, the front-end sales of fried skewers in Kuafu will reach 2.1 billion yuan.

Similar to the rising paths of Mixue Ice City, Tasting, Sweet Lala, Micun Bibimbap and Yuanji Yunjiao, Kuafu Fried String also started from second-and third-tier cities, relying on thousands of franchisees to attack the city and try to create a story of Wandian.

After new tea, coffee, Chinese hamburger and Korean bibimbap, this time, the capital selected fried snacks. In this new "making wealth" game, how did Kuafu’s fried string come out? Did the franchisees in it enjoy the bonus? What about the real input and output of this business?

Competing for hot spots and business districts, "I am the lucky one in the capital game"

Fang Chen first heard of "Kuafu Fried String" in 2022.

"My first reaction was, where did this brand come from?" Fang Chen, a Hangzhou franchisee who has no previous experience in the catering industry, can be regarded as an out-and-out cross-border. Since 2022, he has been paying close attention to the investment projects in the market.

At that time, the new tea brand will join the tide to an unprecedented height. Every once in a while, new tea shops will appear in popular business districts and streets. In contrast, the joining of Fried String seems to be a business that has not yet risen. The commercial tentacles of brands such as Kuafu Fried String, Xijie Fried String and Peng Pu Fried String have not yet reached every corner of the city. Take Kuafu Fried String as an example. At that time, there were only a dozen Kuafu Fried String stores in Hangzhou, which belonged to the real blue ocean market.

After visiting several stores, Fang Chen came up with the idea of starting his own business. "This is indeed a reproducible format, but because it has not been involved in the catering industry before, the whole consideration cycle is still very long. It took nearly a year to understand it before I really made up my mind to invest." He told "World Network Business".

In March, 2023, he won the store on the B1 floor of a popular business district. Because of its prime location, this 20-square-meter store was expensive to rent. According to reports, Kuafu’s initial franchise fee is close to 50,000 yuan, the first-year management fee is 12,000 yuan, the deposit is 15,000 yuan, the core equipment is 35,000 yuan, the first batch of materials is 30,000 yuan, and the threshold for joining is about 150,000 yuan. Including rent, labor costs and store decoration design, Fang Chen invested nearly 600,000 yuan before and after.

"If it is in the snack street, the entrance of the community and the food city, the rental cost will be slightly lower, but the traffic and exposure are obviously not as good as the shopping mall." In his view, a good store location has its own marketing attributes, and joining the business is essentially to compete for hot spots, which is directly related to the running water and profit of the store.

At that time, although the popularity of fried skewers in Kuafu had not yet started, the variety was rich, and the unit price of customers from 20 yuan to 30 yuan still attracted many young people who came to try them early. Chicken rice flowers, beef skewers, chicken skewers and other products were popular, and the underground of the business district was connected with the subway, so the shops in Fang Chen attracted a lot of passengers.

When asked whether and how long to return, Fang Chen didn’t give a direct answer, only implicitly indicated that he might be one of the lucky ones in this game. Half a year after opening the first store, he won another store in the business circle nearly two kilometers away. Judging from this action, how to operate seems self-evident.

Similar to other franchise businesses, franchisees who entered the market earlier accounted for better store resources. During the visit, many franchisees believe that as long as the location is reasonable and the string of snacks are fried, it can be regarded as a stable small business.

The cycle of returning to the capital has been lengthened, and new entrants are still "waiting for spring"

In the bombing track, "you have to join the world" is also an unshakable iron law.

Around 2023, after completing several rounds of financing, Kuafu Fried String began to develop with great strides, and at the same time expanded to new first-tier cities and sinking markets. During this year, Wang Kuankuan, the founder of Xijie Fried String, also proposed to support 1000 franchisees to open more stores.

More people smell the smell of making money, and franchisees "follow the trend".

Franchisee Huang Wei saw business opportunities in a long queue. "Small area, distinctive taste and covering more age groups, simple operation, and more efficient profit." Huang Wei, who has worked as a big restaurant before, believes that small and fine stores can make adjustments more flexibly when costs are rising.

In the process of store location, he had a brief hesitation in a popular snack street and a new business circle. The snack street has a large flow of people and the competition is equally great. The environment of the new shopping mall is good, but the flow of people is unknown. At that time, Kuafu fried skewers played the slogan of category upgrading, encouraging more franchisees to put fried skewers, a roadside stall category, into high-end shopping malls.

In December, 2023, Huang Wei opened a shop on the B1 floor of the new business district, adjacent to Mo yogurt, Xishu puffs and mustard beef patties. The decoration image of the store is more fashionable and younger.

He has invested nearly 300,000 yuan in franchise fees, brand agency fees, operating equipment, food raw materials and access to digital operating systems, excluding rent. After opening the store, some ingredients need to be purchased from the headquarters in a unified way. Among them, the larger expenditure is herbal bittern oil, and the purchase price is about one barrel of herbal bittern oil in 150 yuan. One pot needs three barrels, and it needs to be added daily.

It is understood that the store’s larger profit source is not new products with slightly higher customer price, such as "raw fried chicken legs", but meat skewers (usually 5 or 10 skewers) such as palm treasure, beef skewers and Xiaojun liver and vegetable skewers such as pepper, Pleurotus ostreatus and cauliflower. According to some media reports, Kuafu merchants introduced that the gross profit of mutton skewers, corn kernels, fish and tofu is around 65%, and the gross profit of potato chips, bean skin skewers and other categories can reach over 80%, with an average gross profit margin of around 60%.

In the early communication, Kuafu Fried String Merchants did not promise Huang Wei a specific return cycle. According to media reports, the merchants revealed that the return period of stores with initial operating investment of 150,000 ~ 200,000 yuan is about 7 months. With the increase of franchisees, the return period is gradually lengthened.

"At present, the overall trend is ok, getting better every day, and the rest can only be said to be patient." Huang Wei said optimistically.

In Shanghai, Wuhan, Xi ‘an and other cities, "just walk a few steps, you can see a fried string shop", which has gradually become the grand scene of more cities. As the competition intensifies, there are also franchisees who have left sadly.

If someone enters, someone will retreat. On social platforms such as Xiaohongshu and Tik Tok, there are many voices of complaints from some franchisees of Kuafu Fried String, such as "losing hundreds of thousands after joining for less than half a year" and "opening a store for 300,000 yuan, but still unable to persist". On idle fish, there are not a few franchisees selling second-hand Kuafu fried string equipment.

Some franchisees swarmed in and became the first group to "fall".

Investing means investing people. Why did the post-90 s entrepreneurs rush to get 500 million financing?

When talking about the original intention of investing in Kuafu Fried String, many franchisees expressed similar views-simple offline business is difficult to do, and when joining, they pay more attention to the Internet gene behind the brand, which is highly related to the Internet, and brand strategy and marketing can be adjusted faster according to the market, with higher efficiency.

The genes of enterprises are often strongly related to the founders. If traced back, the so-called "Internet genes" in Kuafu’s fried string can’t be separated from its founder Yuan Zelu.

This 90-year-old graduate from Xi ‘an Jiaotong University is a real serial entrepreneur. According to public information, during his college years, Yuan Zelu and his alumni jointly founded the Feifan takeaway ordering network. When Meituan and Hungry competed for hegemony, Feifan was gradually defeated.

In 2014, Yuan Zelu once again crossed the border from the Internet to the catering industry and became the co-founder of "West Young Master Meat Sandwich". The article "Why did I resign to sell meat sandwich" planned by him directly made the West Young Master brand an instant hit and won a round of financing in a short time.

Because of his different ideas, he withdrew from the "West Young Master Meat Sandwich" entrepreneurial project. According to public information, Yuan Zelu himself once said that he had driven more than 9,000 kilometers in the United States, observed in various stores of McDonald’s and Subway, and summarized the category logic behind Wandian brand-small stores, big chains and full supply.

In his vision, to be a "chain store", one is to choose a category that can be standardized, has a wide audience and has a universal taste; The second is the digital transformation of the traditional catering business process and organizational structure.

In 2018, he founded Kuafu Fried String, which tightly bound the brand with two key words: "McDonald’s" and "Wandian Chain". During the visit, Tianxia Online Merchants found that, except for a few big stores, the stores in Kuafu are almost a standard replicable model: covering an area of about 20 square meters, employees with no more than 5 people, factory distribution of all raw materials, standardized process and relatively streamlined product SKU.

The form of "small store+chain" has low investment threshold and personnel cost, and can achieve high efficiency and profit under the condition of suitable location, and the return period is short, which is also the path taken by a large number of catering or new consumer brands at present.

The full supply mode makes the operation easier. A franchisee uses the "fool-like operation" as a metaphor for this system. The ingredients are 100% distributed, and the clerk only needs to serve according to the prescribed process, and the taste is relatively stable. In addition, in daily operations, the headquarters can provide back-end support for stores in finance and agency operations.

The shareholders of a certain round of investors in Kuafu told Tianxia Online Merchants that in the catering industry, the core ability is organizational power, and the core of organizational power lies in people. The core ability and concept of the founder are the greatest competitiveness.

"We invest in the core of this enterprise. First, we invest in Yuan Zelu. When the brand is in different scales, the test of organizational strength is completely different, and the founder’s ability model is particularly important; The second is to value the digital construction behind the brand, and to achieve greater volume, from the supply chain, procurement and store terminal control, it is a strong guarantee for standardization. " The investor’s shareholders believe that.

Can fried string snacks run out of the next "Wandian" brand?

"2024 will be the first year of the fried chicken string track." Recently, under the development logic of expansion first, Kuafu Fried String shouted a new slogan-breaking through 5,000 by the end of 2024. National business daily mentioned in a report that Yuan Zelu has set the goal of realizing the scale of ten thousand stores in 2026.

According to this timeline, Kuafu Fried String needs to expand at an average rate of 8 new stores every day. Up to now, only Mi Xue Bing Cheng has achieved the goal of 10,000 stores, compared with the new tea-drinking track that was soaring two years before the bid.

Then, can fried string snacks really run out of the next "Wandian" brand?

Judging from the growth of the track, in recent years, with the changes in consumer demand, the business prospects of snacks and drinks are larger, such as milk tea, Chinese hamburgers, burritos, etc. It is an overall trend to make meals smaller and snacks bigger.

As far as fried string is concerned, it is a relatively mature category with no geographical restrictions. At the same time, it is also a typical track with categories and no brands. There are more or less fried string stalls and workshops in the streets and lanes of every city. Kuafu Fried String, Khufu Fried String, Xijie Fried String and other brands just want to subvert the street category of fried string through store upgrading and standardized production.

Once the habit of consumers is formed, the growth scale of fried string snacks may be no less than that of coffee track. Capital is scrambling to inject capital into the brand of fried string, and it may be the growth of this track that is gambling. Many investment institutions believe that the fried string category has the "Wandian gene". Jiayu Capital, who participated in the investment in Xijie Fried String, thinks: "Fried String is addictive and irritating, and it can be used for retail business with gross profit of catering, which is a full supply chain business."

This business may come to a crossroads. On a street with a fair flow of people in Yuhang District, Hangzhou, the decoration sounds tinkling every once in a while, and stores such as Xijie Fried String, Peng Pu Fried String and Kuafu Fried String have settled down one after another, and the distance from left to right is only four or five hundred meters.

When asked whether they are worried about competition, some franchisees are pessimistic and worry that "business will be bad in the future, and the cost of doing activities will be more every month"; Some franchisees said that the competition has two sides, and the penetration rate of fried skewers is not high at present. If there are more stores and the brand awareness starts, it is a good thing. "I hope that it will be like the former Honey Snow Ice City, and when everyone knows it, the whole track will become bigger."

"May time live up to its glory." On the first day of opening a store, a franchisee made such a sentence in a circle of friends.