As the youth unemployment rate constantly remains low, there is a growing voice questioning whether higher education still has validity to apply knowledge to real-world jobs. One university though should be free from such criticism: Chicken University, which was founded by a famous chicken franchise company, Genesis. The university has training curriculums for franchise owners and a R&D lab to develop new recipes. The company benchmarked McDonald’s ‘Hamburger University’, in an attempt to become one of the best players in the franchise industry. Some netizens were amused, others flabbergasted. The original article was posted on one of the most popular internet communities on Daum, ‘Oddities or Truths’.
The one and only ‘Chicken University’
From a twenty-something guy with long hair to a generous looking ajumma, their hands are busy with chopping and mincing. The more their sweat drops on their aprons, the more their ‘chicken ambition’ ripens. It is a snapshot of one of cheerful days at a practice class of Chicken University.
I visited this one of a kind ‘Chicken University’, situated in Icheon, Gyeonggi. If you drive by the campus, you might think it is some sort of condominium. I climbed the mountain and passed the entrance, and a white building with a humble exterior was standing in front of me. The building used to be dedicated for youth retreats: the company bought the 72,000 Pyeong-land and completely remodeled the building into a university building. It cost 15 billion won to have all the work done.
What’s the purpose of this ‘Chicken University’? As the name suggests, it teaches how to cook chicken from A to Z. Although it is not the most famous university in Korea, Chicken University aims high: it aspires to catch up with the legacy and reputation of ‘Hamburger University’ founded by McDonald’s.
Of course Chicken University does not give you a bachelor’s degree. It is founded in 2000 by ‘Genesis’, which owns a famous chicken brand ‘BBQ’, in an effort to train their franchise owners.
What do they teach at Chicken University? Who are the ‘students’? Lee Byung-ju, a team leader at the university said that ‘We have 19 curriculums. The programme is basically to train the franchise owners of our brands, ‘BBQ’ or ‘Chicken Village’, from basic to advanced levels.’ In short, the university is like a military academy for the franchise owners. The students usually choose from two types of trainings [‘4 nights and 5 days’,’ 9 nights and 10days’], which provide them managerial strategy and cooking practices. The teachers are Genesis’ employees who are both experienced and knowledged in their respective areas. The building is not that glamourous though, but it is fully equipped with seminar rooms, an auditorium, cooking practice rooms, and R&D facilities.
Jang Yung-hak, the chief of public relations department of Genesis said that ‘The students represent the portrait of the current economy and our time.’ There used to be a lot of students in their forties, and as the average age has dropped, there are a lot of thirty-something students getting trained. Since the job market looks ever grimmer, such phrases like ‘retirement at age 45’, ‘the tipping point at 38’ are galvanizing young people to start their own businesses. He also added that there seems more young people in their twenties starting their businesses with friends.
Isn’t it just a training center to open franchises? Then it would be inappropriate to call these facilities as a university.
The university occasionally invites professional lecturers to provide a free ‘business academy’ for people who are interested in restaurant business. These kinds of lectures prioritize to train those who are in desperate need, like unemployed or lay-off people; it is Chicken University’s way of giving back to society. In summer, the school invites children to offer them ‘Chicken Camp’. Sometimes hotel management major students come to the campus for a fieldtrip. The school certainly covers everything regarding chicken.
It is not just name-only university: they are heavily investing on R&D, as well as training owners. The research lab of Chicken University has 12 researchers who are postgraduate educated, developing new recipes. These days, even restaurant businesses needs R&D to be successful: ‘McDonald’s India’ developed new menus like ‘McWrap’, ‘Pizza McPuff’; they became very popular that they are sold even in the Middle East. The competitive environment of the franchise industry does not allow them to stay in mediocrity. The lab is seeking to find authentically ‘Korean tastes’, in cooperation with academics and culinary professionals.
After all, the company can grow without a school. But Genesis created Chicken University because of the founder Yoon Hong-geun’s unique business philosophy. Mr Yoon stresses that ‘franchise businesses are not so different from education businesses.’
Let’s think about famous franchises: McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks… mostly they are foreign companies. He thought ‘Why can’t we have one of those?’ And that’s how the Chicken University idea started. Genesis thought the key to success, domestically as well as globally, lies in ‘education’.
Franchise owners usually stick to whatever that is given by headquarters, from menus to managerial strategies. However, franchise businesses are not immune to failure. The owners’ mentality is the most critical factor to success. There are a number of things to take care of from managing a workforce to operating a store, yet since most owners are not seasoned business men, they face a lot of difficulties. And that is where ‘education’ comes into effective play. How the owners are fundamentally trained could make or break the business.
When I walked into an office of the school, I noticed a picture frame with a phrase, ‘The right education will bring luck for a thousand years’. It is a sheer reflection of the purpose of the university: trying to be one of the best in the global market by education. There used to be a time when franchise companies were treated like frauds because some of them did not take care of their franchises after taking royalties. Genesis tries to beat this dark side of franchise businesses by heavily investing on education. That’s why the founder named the company ‘Genesis’, which is obviously from the Bible.
His ambition did not stop there. He wanted to compete neck-and-neck with the best player in the industry. That is why Chicken University is aiming to advance beyond McDonald’s ‘Hamburger University’. Fred Turner, who founded McDonald’s in 1954, created Hamburger University with a 100,000 Pyeong campus in Oakbrook, Chicago in 1968. The university taught how to keep McDonald’s quintessential taste and service, which became a foundation of the company’s success in the global market. The school has 9 curriculums, including restaurant management. The number of students who have completed the course is more than 65,000, which is incomparably larger than Chicken University’s number, 7,000, due to the long history of Hamburger University.
However, Chicken University is growing fast. Mr Lee Byung-ju said the university developed the whole training process and R&D system in only 5 years, compared to 29 years that Hamburger University spent.
It is the dream of Genesis that Chicken University becomes the centre of franchise economics research and education. When the dream is realized, can Genesis become one of the best global franchise brands?
Comments from Daum:
I knew it! ke ke ke ke ke ke
I’ve been living in Yeoju for 19 years, and I had no idea….
Hoel… This is intense.. They might start a religion..
I heard there is ‘School of Mr Pizza Studies’ ke ke
Aren’t these pictures photoshoped? ;
신화는 여러분의 우산입니다!!:
I heard there’s a ‘Kiss University’ abroad..
From now on, no one would say, ‘I ended up frying chickens, so why the heck did I go to university? ke ke ke
The money they spent on the school could have been used to lower the price.. BBQ chicken is too expensive ㅡㅡ
BBQ chicken is too expensive!!! I heard that olive oil or whatever oil they use, all fried chickens are basically the same! Just use normal oil and make it cheaper!
Since the owners are getting higher education, no wonder BBQ chicken is so expensive.
장인득씨의 김왕창 넣은 특제 우엉국:
If one of the students falls asleep during a class, then the professor would slap the student with a chicken leg and saying, ‘How dare you be indifferent to this nice and crunchy chicken!!’[Parodying one of chicken brand commercials] Oh, and there’s ‘Hamburger University’ in the US, for REAL.
The students should proudly say ‘I go to Chi-Dae’ [‘Chicken-Uni’]. Let chicken have some dental treatment! [It’s a pun due to the fact that the abbreviation of ‘Chicken-Uni’ has the same pronunciation with ‘School of Dentistry’]
I should belong there.