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Lenard’s Store Owner Profile – Steve Jackson, Mackay

How many Lenard’s stores do you own and/or operate?

Two stores in Mackay at Mt Pleasant Greenfields Shopping
Centre and Caneland Central.

Are you the sole owner or are there co-owners?

Sole owner.

Please tell me a little about yourself, your background,
and how (and when) you came to become a Lenard’s franchisee?

I’m a local Mackay boy, born in Mackay in 1965. My claim to fame is I played rugby league at the top level, I was a local football hero in Mackay until I was 19, and then I got the opportunity to go to Canberra and play for the Canberra Raiders from 1985-1989. I played in the Grand Final in 1989 at the top level – A Grade.

 I then went on to play for Western Sydney for two years. The contract of my life was with the Gold Coast Seagulls from 1992-1994. I retired in 1994 at age 27 from an injury – a prolapsed disc in my back. I played in nine State of Origin games. I came home to Mackay in 1995 and coached the local team in Mackay in 1996.

I got to meet a man named John Whitbread, who was the master franchisee for Lenard’s North Queensland. One night he looked at me and said, “I’m opening a Lenard’s store at Mt Pleasant and you’re the man to run it!”

The store was part of the $30,000,000 extension at Mt Pleasant Shopping Centre. 12 months later, on the 26th of November 1997, I was in the store.

I’ve had some ups and downs, as you do in business. A lot of water under the bridge over a 26 year period. I’ve just had my 27th Christmas at the Mt Pleasant store.

I purchased the Caneland store four years ago in 2018, just before Covid. I’ve experienced some trials, as you can appreciate with a business in a shopping centre. Rents vary, they tend to go up when you have good times and tend not to go down during the bad times. So there have been some struggles during the last four years in Mt Pleasant store, but things are starting to look good this year because I’ve re-negotiated the rent.

What do you love most about being a Lenard’s store owner?

The chicken! I have a family of four. They’re all grown up now, my youngest is 16. I have three boys and one girl. And they used to eat so much chicken growing up they nearly had feathers growing out of their underarms. Chicken is amazing, it’s so versatile, you can do so much with it. I’ve always loved chicken. I still stop on my way to work to get a toasted chicken sandwich.

I really like the Lenard’s format. You know, they’ve have had some rough times too, their own ups and downs. Back in the early days, the way they presented themselves in the market was very strong, with more than 200 franchises at one stage. It’s great to see the brand on the comeback.

Professional rugby league player to Lenard’s franchisee?

That you don’t tend to forget, I was 32 years old, I had just met my future wife, Shannon, and she then fell pregnant with our first child, Courtney. All of our children have worked in the shop from when they were 12 year olds. Courtney is now 24 with two kids of her own and handles our social media, Leighton is 22, Kai is 19 and Nate is 16. Nate just left in December – he’s the last of my kids to work in the shop. It’s been a very family-orientated business.

What aspects do you find most challenging?

Always in business is the balance between staff, negotiating rent in shopping centres because it’s a product and a business that needs to be in full flow of traffic so shopping centres tend to be the best option for Lenard’s store.

What do you love most about your local area and community? Have you always lived in the area?

I’m as local as you get. Born in Mackay in 1965, and I’ve been a proud Mackay boy all my life. I ventured to play rugby. Real estate here is a sleeping giant. The resources in Mackay are phenomenal. Mining, and we haven’t even tapped into tourism. They call Airlie Beach the gateway to the Whitsundays and I believe Mackay is just as good. It’s an hour south to Lindeman Island. There’s some beautiful islands off the coast, great fishing out in the reef. The place has so many beautiful things to attract more people.

Which Lenard’s products do you stock?

As many as we can! We can fit about 40 different products in our window at Caneland Central. It has a bigger shop front than the Mt Pleasant store – but we can still fit around 30 products. We’ve come up with a new concept at the Mt Pleasant store with cooked roast chickens, as well as cold chickens. My favourite product has always been the Chicken Kiev and a lot of people out there think it’s their favourite too. The chicken breast with the garlic butter and crumbs has always been a winner. The beauty with our chicken is its versatility; you can pop it on a plate with roast veggies or mash potato or a cold salad; you can serve it as hors d’oeuvres. And the beautiful thing about chicken is that it’s a bit kinder to the older stomach. Back in the day, in 1997, chicken used to be 0.75 of dinners each week, but now these days, it’s two-and-a-half meals a week so its popularity has grown significantly.

What is your favourite aspect of the support provided by Lenard’s, ie marketing and sales support etc?

Back in the early days they were like a big brother to us. They probably came in store about four times a year to do standards of operations, making sure we weren’t taking too many short cuts. You could walk into a Lenard’s store on one side of the country and one on the other side, and you’d always get the same consistent flavour and product.

What do you and your customers love most about Lenard’s products?

Ease of dinners. The preparation is already done. You can take home and put the meals in the oven and just prepare the sides, so it’s a simple dinner. It’s quick, healthy and extremely tasty food.

Why do you think Lenard’s products are so popular and have endured for so many years?

Lenard’s has always released new products, they haven’t rested on their laurels. Their philosophy is if it’s not perfect, make it better. I like their concept of how they keep looking for better ways to present our chicken.

Which Lenard’s products are most popular at your store/s, and why?

Definitely the Chicken Kiev! The new Kiev Filo, skinless chicken breast with garlic, goes together like a hand in a glove.

Which Lenard’s product is your personal favourite, and what do you usually serve as sides?

Chicken Kiev and caesar salad. And Filo with roast potatoes.


Click here to find out more about Lenard’s Caneland Central.

Click here to find out more about Lenard’s Mt Pleasant.

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