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Zen (Thailand) to Franchise Brands in Asean for First Time in 2017

26 May 2017 - Zen Corporation, the operator of Zen and Aka Japanese restaurants, will branch out internationally for the first time on a franchise basis this year, aiming to become one of Asean's top five casual dining chains in the next five years.

As an initial step, the company will expand two restaurant brands -- Tummour, a Thai-Isan restaurant chain, and On the Table, a lifestyle restaurant -- via franchising in northern Asia, Asean and the Middle East, said chief commercial officer Thanyachate Ekvetchavit. About five restaurants for each brand are planned to be opened overseas this year.

The company recently acquired the Tummour restaurant chain for an undisclosed price. After the acquisition, its total restaurant branches will increase to 208 under 12 brands, up from 88 previously.

The Tummour acquisition helps diversify its food offerings from mostly Japanese food for the middle class to Isan food for the mass market.

Some 90% of Tummour restaurants owned by Siruwat Chatchawan are operated under franchise contracts locally and overseas. Zen Corp believes using the Tummour network is a shortcut to expand abroad.

"The Tummour acquisition is in line with Zen's development strategy that leverages our business through the franchise model," Mr Thanyachate said.

The move helps Zen Corp meet strong demand from restaurant investors and expand its customer base through Japanese and Thai menus.

The company will attend Thaifex at Impact Muang Thong Thani to seek potential franchisees for its 12 restaurant brands such as Tummour, Aka, On the Table and Pho (Vietnamese restaurant).

Sakkanon Chirathivat, chief executive of Zen Corp, said he is confident Tummour is a perfect fit for the company as it will further strengthen its expertise in the restaurant business and diversify its portfolio.

The company's new focus on franchising will drive its Asean expansion, he said. "The global trend of dining out more is positive for restaurant industry growth in Thailand and the region, and we expect this growth to continue this year," said Mr Sakkanon.

The company plans to spend 320 million baht to expand its business this year. Of the total, 280 million baht is to open 68 restaurants this year locally and abroad, while 80 million will be allocated for a marketing budget.

Zen Corp expects its total number of restaurants will reach 274 by the end of this year. Of the total, 159 will be on a franchise basis in the domestic market and 10 overseas, while remaining 105 restaurants will be those it owns. The company expects the plan to grow its sales by 20% this year.

Mr Siruwat, who is now the head of Thai food business at Zen Corp, said the company is going to offer franchise contracts to interested operators overseas.

"We expect foreign investors will share our excitement as this franchising expansion has the potential to boost restaurant business internationally," he said.


Bangkok Post

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