It is hard not to notice the BreadTalk brand when you travel in China but few know that is began in Singapore only 9 years ago and has enjoyed very rapid expansion since then. The BreadTalk Group is now in 15 countries with over 200 bakeries and 30 food courts and restaurants and is publicly traded on the Singapore Stock Exchange.
Modeled after successful Japanese bakery concepts, the BreadTalk brand is rapidly establishing itself in China and is enjoying more success than its Hong Kong competitor, Maxim, which has focused on the more difficult cost conscious South China market. You can find the bakeries in shopping centers, on main streets and in hypermarts like Carrefour. Prices are a little higher than the usual mom and pop stores but the service and store ambiance certainly makes up for this gap. Flavors are very localized and if you are not Chinese you probably would not like the items very much.
The Group is also rolling out TOAST BOX, a competitor to YA KUN KAYA TOAST, and usually puts the concept inside its third growth vehicle, food courts.
Food Republicis a food court concept with an “edge.” Singapore is famous for its hawker centers which serve delicious food at very reasonable prices. The centers are great social equalizers – everyone in Singapore is a customer – and it is not unusual to see Mercedes cars in the parking lots next to scooters. Food Republic is an upscale hawker center with air conditioning and a wonderful atmosphere.
I am really impressed with the concept and go there every chance I get when I am in Singapore. The ones in Hong Kong and China are not as interesting because of the absence of some local Southeast Asian foods and less design fit out but they are still far superior to any other food courts you can find.
Food Courts and Bakeries are just evolving in China and BreadTalk has a long way to go to cover the country so one may expect many years of successful business growth.
I guess that the founder of the Company, George Quek, still feels the urge to take on more challenges because recently he decided to enter into a joint venture to bring the Carl’s Jr hamburger concept to Shanghai and Beijing with the Singapore/Malaysia franchisee, Mason Tan. Taking on McDonald’s and KFC is never easy but it will be interesting to watch how and if he and his partner can outsmart these global giants.