The great man behind Red Rooster

Our People News: January 1, 2018

Meet Peter Kailis – the real aussie legend!

The story of Red Rooster’s founder Peter Kailis is not dissimilar to those of thousands other migrants whose stories have built Australia.

In the early 1900s, Peter’s father George Palasis Kailis and his grandfather migrated to Australia from the Greek island of Kastellorizo. They lived a simple and tough life as a struggling family in Perth with their lives centring around the family business – a fish and chips shop. This was the beginning of the Kailis family seafood empire and a significant chapter in Australian business history.

The eldest of the Kailis siblings, Peter was born in Australia in 1927 and carried on the traditions, work ethic, dedication and entrepreneurial spirit of his father. He left school at the age of 14, (after working in the shop every day before and after school). At 21 went out on his own, away from the usual family ventures and the business of seafood.

At this time in his life, Peter also met his wife Bianca. Theirs is a love story that has lasted over six decades. He credits her for his success in family and business. Peter built and ran a number of large and very successful businesses from scratch (in timber, construction and packaging) went on to have four children and nine grandchildren and has become a significant and respected figure in WA and Australian business.

Red Rooster is born…

Two acquaintances from Adelaide came to Perth seeking investment to help expand on an existing chicken business. Peter however, (who was always on the lookout for a good investment opportunity), was immediately not interested.

One day, his brother Theo was visiting Peter for lunch. Theo cracked open a beer and served him a hot rotisserie chicken from the said acquaintances shop – that quickly changed Peter’s mind. He smelt and tasted a business opportunity!

In 1972, with an initial capital of $27,000 and 9 partners in total, Red Rooster was born and the first store was built in Kelmscott, WA. In the first 12 months they lost $100,000 and a partner – things weren’t exactly going swimmingly. Peter was the chairman of operations and persevered, but the other shareholders panicked. Peter eventually bought them all out. The business went on to grow swiftly with one store turning into four – this despite absolutely no advertising and only relying on word of mouth.

Back in those days of Red Rooster a whole roast chicken (stuffed) cost $1.95. Peter Kailis developed the Hawaiian Pack (originally with a banana fritter), and he also invented the Rooster Roll as a way of using up leftover chicken. These are both popular items still on the Red Rooster menu today!

Kailis eventually sold the company to Myer in 1982, when the network had grown to 80 Red Rooster stores. He continued to work with Red Rooster assisting and guiding the brand for about another 5 years after he sold the business in 1982.

Today, Peter is in his 90s and still LOVES Red Rooster. His favourite thing on the menu is the Tropicana Pack… In fact, he still gets one every week from his local Red Rooster!