Take one step into Jungle Jim’s and you know you are in for an extraordinary experience. The Atlantic-Canadian restaurant chain, one of the region’s longest-running successful chains of its kind, has been exceeding guest expectation of a family restaurant for two decades.
When starting the original location on Torbay Road in St. John’s, N.L., in 1991, Stephen Pike and his partners Barry Walsh and Sean Brake recognized there was an auspicious gap in the restaurant market between fast food and high end, and the market lacked something affordable and appealing to multi-generations. And so Jungle Jim’s was born: a high energy restaurant with a broad menu served in a tropical setting that appeals to the young and the young at heart.
The idea, says Pike, “took off like a house on fire.” Within the first few years, more Jungle Jim’s locations opened up across the island, then in New Brunswick, Alberta and even Williamsburg, Va. Approaching the 20th anniversary, I ask Pike what the secret to Jungle Jim’s success has been.
“We decided early on we weren’t in the business of just feeding people, we are in the business of making guests happy,” he says. In fact, “making guests happy” are the first three words in the job description of everyone involved in Jungle Jim’s, from franchisee, to guest servers to kitchen team members. It’s also, one suspects, something to do with the ambiance and the way you feel when you walk through the doors. “As the name suggests, it’s a bit of an escape from the ordinary in Atlantic Canada. It has very tropical, colourful decor, a lot of eye candy and a high energy environment.”
People come to Jungle Jim’s for the atmosphere and stay for the food. Generous helpings and a focus on sharing platters—one called the Kitchen Sink served in, you guessed it, a replicated kitchen sink, is a fan favourite—insanity wings, ribs, hamburgers, stir fry, to name a few, the menu is designed to have something special for everyone, a strategy that fares well for the smaller markets Jungle Jim’s serves.
“We didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves,” explains Pike. “The Jungle Jim’s concept is very accessible and appeals to a broad cross section, a place where you can have fun whether you are entertaining business guests at lunch, coming in with the family on Friday, or Wild Wacky Wing Night on Wednesday.”
Although there is certainly an older crowd on weekend nights, Jungle Jim’s guest base is about 50 per cent family-based. “We try to focus on the family and one of the ways we do that is through “Jungle Family Values, and that means making our restaurants very family friendly, and a very broad Safari Kids’ program.
“We just keep a very strong focus on value so that when a guest leaves they remember the value of their night. We want a certain share-of-mind and that share is a place where you can expect strong value and have a lot of fun.”
Currently in the middle of our most successful annual promotional campaign called Envelope of Fortune, guests receive a sealed envelope at the end of their visit to be opened only on a return visit. You might win an app, a dessert, or up to $50 cash, and it has a positive impact on increased repeat patronage. It’s ideas like this that reward existing guests and a focus on delicious foods that keep Jungle Jim’s at the front of the list when it comes time to go out for some grub.
Jungle Jim’s extends its mission statement “Keeping Guests Happy” to its franchisees, trusted business owners who bring the Jungle Jim’s excitement to their region. With a transparent business model, unique to the industry, Jungle Jim’s passes on all possible purchasing power to its Franchise Operators.
“We charge no upfront franchise fee and no markup on the initial construction of a restaurant, and employ our own construction team, yielding what we feel is the lowest entry cost in the industry. These areas are profit centres for many restaurant chains,” says Pike.
“We want to give an operator every shot at making it when he or she decides to put down their hard-earned money,” says Pike. “Also we return product rebates to our operators. Franchise buying power is able to command certain rebates and we believe that one of the reasons why you would sign up with a franchise is to take advantage of buying power and we believe our operators should receive every advantage we can deliver.”
Pike, Brake, Walsh and the franchisee team have created one of Atlantic Canada’s most successful restaurant chains by knowing and serving its core client base; by understanding the dynamics of the size of the communities it serves and through an unwavering dedication to value and making guests happy.
“People come to Jungle Jim’s to celebrate,” says Pike. “It’s a place where people come to gather and eat, drink and have fun!”