Under CEO Mimma Battista’s remarkable leadership over the past six years, restaurant chain Chicken Treat (which was founded in 1976 and now has 58 stores, largely across WA) has undergone a complete transformation, including new menu items, food innovation, new branding, packaging, uniforms, signage and more. As a result, the brand has tripled sales, including record sales during the pandemic.
Having opened Perth’s first 24/7 restaurant, Mimma has undergone palate training through her experience of being an international coffee judge. She has addressed CEO conferences internationally and as the head of a franchise-based business, takes pride in helping business owners.
Here’s our chat with Mimma.
How did you become CEO of Chicken Treat?
I became CEO of Chicken Treat a little by surprise. I’d interviewed for a different management position within the craveable brands group and the following day the Group CEO called and, instead, offered me the role of being Chief Executive of Chicken Treat. I certainly wasn’t expecting it but readily accepted and the rest is history.
What does your role entail/what does a typical work day look like for you?
As CEO, I oversee the successful implementation of strategic direction on all aspects of running a growing fast-food business. It includes oversight of sales, marketing, operations, food innovation, and property development. There is no such thing as a typical day and being on the West Coast in Perth means I can start my day before dawn when there are executive meetings with head office that is in Sydney.
As a leader who likes to be across the detail, I regularly have meetings with my senior leadership team to review sales, marketing, and operational initiatives, as well as review the financials to measure our performance. With Chicken Treat in a growth phase, I’m increasingly spending time with the property team doing site visits to evaluate new locations and to catch up instore with our hardworking Franchise Partners. The most difficult part of my job, if I am going to be cheeky, would have to be the “food tastings”, after all I am a self-confessed foodie! Given my love of the brand and love of innovative food development, I personally taste all of our new food items and sign-off before they make it onto the menu and that includes indulgent delights like our famous Chicken Treat donut burger.
What is your favourite aspect of being a CEO?
Food is one my absolute passions, the other is helping people and doing what I can from a leadership position to create opportunities for them to grow and develop. Having come from running a small business to now leading an organisation as a Chief Executive, it is so rewarding to help others build their careers.
At Chicken Treat, we are really committed to staff development and have pathways where staff, who have started with us as crew behind the counter, have gone on to be store managers and then progress to being Franchise Partners.
What would you say are the top three skills/qualities/values to be a successful CEO?
You need to be fearless to have the freedom to be creative and innovative. You need to be resilient but importantly, passionate about your brand and the people you work with, and they need to know they can trust and rely on you. As a CEO, I value honesty, respect, collaboration and teamwork.
What advice do you have for other women aiming for leadership roles?
Believe in yourself, and back yourself!
What has been the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
From decades in customer service, I would say the biggest mistake anyone in a leadership position can make is not listening to customer feedback.
What do you believe was the best decision you made in business?
Surrounding myself with a talented, high performing, supportive and loyal team.
How do you build good team culture?
I truly believe the culture is set from the top so it is extremely important to me to lead by example and that includes showing respect for everyone in the team, because they all have a key role in making Chicken Treat the loved brand that it is and we want people to enjoy coming to work.
How do you know when it’s the right time to expand?
Listen to your customers, do your market research, identify the path forward and then I would say take the calculated risk to back your plan. Chicken Treat has been around since 1976 and when I came onboard as CEO the brand was ready for a transformation. Our philosophy was fix the food, fix the stores, fix the brand and that is what we have done with proven success.
How do you personally measure success?
Like all business there are many metrics that we rely on to measure success. As the CEO of a franchise model I strive, along with my team, to have happy and successful Franchise Partners. We are focused on opening new stores, expanding the network and exciting our customers with new foodie delights. I’m proud to say Chicken Treat has just recorded 36 consecutive months of positive growth and our best sales in two decades. The result of our success is that franchisee profitability is up 100 per cent year on year, and we have plans to increase sales by a further 50 per cent by the end of FY23.
How do you handle doubt?
I think it’s normal to sometimes question a decision but it’s equally as important to take the time to analyse how you came to that conclusion and why. Mistakes can often be a great lesson and I’ve learnt over the years to trust my instincts and if there is self-doubt to remind myself of what I have achieved.
How do you make the most of your day? Any tips?
Time management is key. Being a CEO can mean a demanding schedule, so I make time to try to balance work and life. I am up around 4:30am, have coffee and breakfast with my husband, exercise and start work by 7am. It’s amazing what you can achieve in a day when you effectively time manage.
Do you have any tips for managing the work life balance?
Make time to take a break. I need to know there is a “circuit breaker” holiday to look forward to and pre-COVID that would have likely meant an overseas trip. But now I’m content with a staycation and exploring our beautiful country.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire most?
Aldi because they are non-conventional, innovative, and quirky. They are big enough to impress, but small enough to care for their customers.
Do you have a business app you can’t live without?
Yes, Uber Eats from both a business perspective, so I can monitor what is happening in the industry, and from personal perspective, with a strong caveat of, “I am a really great cook – but my culinary skills are reserved for weekend dinner parties”.