Get full access to one story every week, and to summaries of all other stories. Just create a free account

The year 2022 was sombre—even stormy in parts—for India’s stock market. The Nifty 50, a key index, rose a mere 4%, following a 24% surge in 2021. But Westlife Foodworld Ltd couldn’t have asked for a better year. The McDonald’s India franchisee’s shares shot up by 40% in 2022, far outperforming those of every other fast-food-chain operator.

It was Westlife’s best year on the bourses since 2017, with its market capitalisation now at Rs 12,000 crore (~$1.4 billion).

For years, rival Jubilant FoodWorks Ltd, which runs  Domino’s Pizza Domino’s Pizza The Ken How Domino’s defied the might of Zomato and Swiggy Read more in India, was the go-to fast-food company for public-market investors. But that changed in 2022 when Jubilant’s shares tanked by almost 30%, and Westlife became an investor favourite, even beating the two franchisees of  Pizza Hut Pizza Hut The Ken Pizza Hut finally has a turnaround recipe–with a little help from Domino’s Read more and KFC—Devyani International Ltd and Sapphire Foods India Ltd—that listed in 2021.

This rally is a result of multiple shifts in Westlife’s business in recent years. First, its decision to expand its coffee-house-style kiosk McCafe to more than four in every five McDonald’s stores from just one in every three in 2016. This is significant because McCafe beverages enjoy gross margins of over 80%, according to Preeyam Tolia, an analyst at brokerage Axis Securities Ltd. On the other hand, burgers—McDonald’s mainstay—offer 60-70% gross margins depending on their prices.

Then, there were the fortuitous gains brought on by the pandemic. Unlike pizzas, burgers were not considered delivery-friendly. But that changed with the Covid-19-induced lockdowns. “Delivery was maybe 15% of their revenue three years ago. They wouldn’t have thought it would go up to 35%,” says a second analyst with a domestic brokerage. They and a few others The Ken spoke with for this story did not want to be named as they’re not authorised to speak to the media.

The most fascinating, and perhaps even the most consequential in the long term, among the factors driving the rally was the addition of one item to the McDonald’s menu—fried chicken. But it’s not just fast food; it’s a category in its own right in a country where chicken is the meat of choice meat of choice Mint Profile of a meat-eating Indian Read more .

Westlife rolled out McSpicy Fried Chicken in the southern states in May 2020, and the diversification has since become a key point of discussion during the company’s quarterly earnings calls.

AUTHOR

Seetharaman G

Starting out as a business journalist in 2008, Seetharaman has written about energy, climate change, retail, banking, and technology. He has worked with Business Today, a fortnightly, and the Sunday edition of The Economic Times.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 6 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 6 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 6 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.