I travel extensively around the Asia-Pacific region, especially to the emerging markets like China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.  These markets are very price sensitive and local restaurant entrepreneurs are always looking to bring overseas brands to their market.  Many soon discover that the terms and conditions of the Master Franchiser make the model uneconomical in the local country.  There are many reasons why this is so but the two most common issues are high licensing fees and the unwillingness on the part of the concept owner to localize sufficiently to generate good returns with short leases.  Many entrepreneurs have then decided to build their own concepts and this has been a very successful pathway for many.

This is most common with Asian cuisine but there are many cases with western concepts as well.  Visit Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and you will find the Sumo BBQ chain or Gogi, a Korean bulgogi concept.  Both are the brainchild of the Golden Gate Restaurant Group, a 60 store company with Chinese, Japanese and Korean concepts, none of which exist outside of Vietnam. The Golden Gate team travels overseas to see what concepts are working and then develops a local equivalent that generates high returns with low investment costs. Thinking like entrepreneurs, they keep costs down and seize opportunities quickly.

The largest all day breakfast chain in the Philippines is Pancake House, a long time favorite with local diners.  Prices are very affordable and allows for development in all key secondary cities as well as Metro Manila.  You can find all sorts of Japanese, Chinese and American style concepts in the Philippines that are affordable, tasty and meet local customer needs.  It might not be the most authentic food but it is good enough when considering the price points.

Visit Thailand and you cannot avoid seeing the Japanese restaurant chain, Fuji, with 60+ stores throughout the country. I found one in Ubon Ratchathani one time and was quite satisfied with the food which is basically equivalent to a Japanese family restaurant chain in Japan.  Not great but they do a good job with mostly local ingredients.

I can go on and on but I think you get the idea.  If you can find a great concept from overseas with reasonable licensing fees then consider it.  But if the terms are too onerous there is a good track record out there to emulate with local restaurant entrepreneurs successfully bringing overseas ideas back home and localizing them to suit the required palate and economic conditions.


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