Chicken Republic’s Secret Recipe

Chukwunweike Araka
7 min readJan 23, 2024

Last night, at about 2 am I broke into Chicken Republic’s central kitchen in Lagos where I learnt what went into their famous blend of “authentic West African herbs and spices.” The million-dollar secret recipe has endeared Chicken Republic to Nigerians and has contributed to making the brand the fastest-growing fast-food chain in Nigeria. But that’s a lie. I’m not as obsessed with Chicken Republic’s secret recipe as Plankton was with Mr. Krabs’ Krabby Patty to commit crimes that could land me in jail. I can’t tell you the amount of sodium, onions and pepper that goes into making Chicken Republic successful, but, I can tell you the winning strategy Chicken Republic and its owners have employed to keep it way ahead of competitors like KFC.

With 202 restaurants in Nigeria and Ghana as of May 2023, Chicken Republic is without argument the most popular and fastest-growing fast-food chain in the West African region. It has audacious plans to more than double its presence to 430 restaurants by the end of 2024. Chicken Republic had its humble beginning two decades ago — in 2004 in Lagos where it was founded by one Deji Akinyanju.

The Chicken Republic logo

Today, alongside other less popular brands like Pie Express and The Chop Box, Chicken Republic is owned and managed by Food Concepts, a company Deji is the CEO.

Chicken Republic prides itself as a locally grown brand and has its eyes set on dominating West Africa’s food chain business much like how MTN dominates both the West African and broader African telecoms business.

According to its “Taste More” philosophy, the brand offers its customers “tasty, everyday affordable value meals in clean, cool ambient restaurants that offer good customer service.” Agreed, the meals at Chicken Republic are affordable with the popular Refuel Meal which contains rice or spaghetti with deep-fried chicken costing 1500 naira, last I checked. That’s shy of the two dollars a day which about two-thirds of Nigerians survive on. This means that Chicken Republic is indeed within the reach of your average Nigerian.

Compared to a competitor like KFC whose cheapest meal is jollof rice without chicken going for almost the same price as Chicken Republic’s Refuel meal, it’s easy to see why Chicken Republic is an industry leader. In fact, Chicken Republic’s invention, the “Refuel Meal” is an industry disruptor that has influenced other popular players like Mr. Biggs, Sweet Sensation and The Place to adapt their menus to include an affordable rice and chicken combo. Mr. Biggs’ Chop-up Meal which is rice and chicken costs 1500 naira while The Place offers a rice and chicken meal that costs 1600 naira.

A plate of Refuel Meal

Yes, Chicken Republic’s meals are affordable, but whether or not they are tasty is debatable. In my humble opinion, Chicken Republic meals are okay, but I can’t exactly say they are all too wonderful. I mean, they aren’t Michelin star standard. Aside from the generally known fact that fast food is unhealthy, the reason I dislike Chicken Republic sometimes is the nauseating smell of oil that lingers in their restaurants and on the food. My guess is that they either overuse the oil used in frying their chicken or they use really cheap oil to save costs. Even when I order online I still taste the bad oil on the chicken. I guess there’s a price after all for the cheap food.

Another assertion that Chicken Republic makes is that its restaurants are clean and offer a cool ambience. On this, I would give Chicken Republic a nine out of ten because all the franchises I have visited in Ekiti, Lagos, Ondo, Abuja and Onitsha were all clean and the environment convenient. Kudos to the central management for maintaining a minimum standard across its franchises.

Nevertheless, I don’t completely agree with Chicken Republic’s last assertion that it offers good customer service. I have to admit that the level of customer service offered at Chicken Republic is top-tier compared to your average Nigerian institution, however, there’s a lot of room for improvement. One of such areas that Chicken Republic should look into is long queues. In as much as the problem is not endemic to all the franchises I have visited, I have experienced it enough to see a pattern emerge.

No one likes waiting in line especially not Nigerians who are impatient by nature. I have been in long lines at Chicken Republic countlessly and for stupid reasons. Either they ran out of fried chicken which is a real bottleneck as everything on the menu aside from pastries, ice cream and the EggStar meal are paired with chicken, or, a customer is holding up the line because of payment issues. I have also been in clearly understaffed and overwhelmed Chicken Republics where workers are frantic as hell and the customers agitated. The one at Awolowo Road, Ikoyi is a perfect example of this unsightly chaos.

I think it really all depends on the franchise manager’s ability to organize their team and their restaurant for a smooth flow from the kitchen to the sales point. Maybe Chicken Republic should organize regular training for its managers to help maintain a minimum standard of service across its franchises. Furthermore, Chicken Republic should look into collaborating with banks and fintechs for payment innovations like scan-to-pay and in-app payment models popular in places like China. These innovations I bet would be popular among their young customers who I dare say constitute a considerable portion of all customers.

Another innovation I would suggest is data analysis to help managers better predict busy days and help them prepare for them. In today’s world more than ever before, data is king. I bet that if a store collects enough data on customer behaviour, patterns will emerge revealing what days of the week are the busiest and what the preferred meal on the menu is for each day. In the alternative, an intuitive manager with good judgement would know this by simple observation without all the cool data stuff.

Despite the hiccups, Chicken Republic still remains the fastest-growing fast-food chain in Nigeria and the West African region. For context’s sake, the joining fee for a Chicken Republic franchise is twenty-five thousand dollars — about 30,000,000 naira, without the cost of land and labour. To understand why this is, we have to discover why the franchise’s food is so affordable yet of decent quality.

The answer is roots — Chicken Republic has deep roots in Nigeria. That’s why even when the hurricanes of the foreign exchange crises hit the Nigerian Economy in late 2023 Chicken Republic remained firm and even had the wishful thinking of expanding when others were looking to close shop. The brand sells itself as a local brand and that is its secret weapon. Instead of using expensive, scarce forex (mostly dollars) to import the stuff like chicken and rice that it needs to run its restaurants, Chicken Republic has a win-win relationship with local farmers (suppliers) where they (the farmers) work with Chicken Republic to deliver rice, chicken — and whatever else Chicken Republic uses — to the standard that Chicken Republic desires.

In places like the European Union and the United States the importation of certain agricultural produce like beans — which Chicken Republic uses in its signature rice and beans Refuel combo — from Nigeria is banned because of “hazardous levels of pesticides.” Coming under the World Trade Organization exception to free trade which lets you put a stop to imports to protect your citizen’s health, the E.U. and the U.S. banned the inflow of beans and other agricultural produce from Nigeria.

Nigerian farmers are accused of not delivering quality produce. But, would you blame them when most of them are poor subsistence farmers who farm just enough to survive? Their situation is even worse when you consider that they are usually unable to get financing from the government like their peers in farming giants like Brazil and the U.S. whose cheaper agricultural exports outcompete Nigerian equivalents — making them more appealing to the Nigerian consumer.

But, the Nigerian government isn’t just sitting on its hands. To the end of protecting local farmers, the government has employed underhanded tactics like import bans and high tariffs. In 2003 the Nigerian government banned poultry products from places like Brazil where farmers enjoy huge subsidies that Nigerian farmers can only dream of. In an interview with CNN in 2016 KFC whined about how it had to pay 20 per cent tariffs on potatoes it imported from Holland — a problem that wouldn’t exist with Chicken Republic’s local supply chains.

Moreover, the waves of change that have swept across the world in the past four years seem to be in favour of Chicken Republic’s localization strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s war with Ukraine, the US-China fraying relationship, and more recently the escalation of the Israel-Gaza conflict in the Red Sea have all to varying degrees unravelled globalization. Rhetoric like “de-coupling” and “de-risking” echoed in the West all point towards an emerging taste for local supply chains or at least regional ones.

KFC would learn that you cannot grow without engaging your immediate environment. If KFC were to apply Chicken Republic’s strategy, they would cooperate with Nigerian farmers to produce quality potatoes that meet KFC’s apparently high standards for fries. By providing Nigerian farmers with funds and the know-how KFC would nurture local supply chains which would in turn save it what CNN described as a “large import bill.” Doing this would also have helped KFC in recent times stave off the foreign exchange crisis that followed the devaluation of the naira by the Tinubu administration. As an added bonus KFC would acquire the bragging rights to call itself Nigerian — a tag that might endear it more to Nigerians.

In essence, Chicken Republic’s winning recipe of helping its immediate environment, that’s Nigerian farmers and its other suppliers, has transcended corporate social responsibility to make practical business sense.



Chukwunweike Araka

As a writer I believe I'm actively part of humanity's collective memory and conscience. And as such, I owe the duty of telling the truth at all times.