Burger King part­ner talks Myan­mar ex­pan­sion plans

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - STEVE GIL­MORE s.gil­more@mm­times.com

Af­ter open­ing its first branch at Yan­gon In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Burger King’s lo­cal fran­chise operator is hop­ing to open many more out­lets in Myan­mar, its gen­eral man­ager said.

BITING into a Burger King in Myan­mar for now re­quires a pass­port, with the coun­try’s only res­tau­rant lo­cated past cus­toms at Yan­gon In­ter­na­tional Air­port. But fran­chise operator Mi­nor Food Group is hop­ing lo­cal ap­petite will merit many more out­lets.

Thai firm Mi­nor Food Group (MFG) opened Myan­mar’s first Burger King in Ter­mi­nal 1 on July 1 – with very lit­tle fan­fare. There was no press re­lease, no cer­e­mony.

By com­par­i­son, ri­val fast-food giant KFC opened its first Myan­mar branch al­most ex­actly a year ear­lier, invit­ing a host of lo­cal me­dia and of­fer­ing free food. Lo­cal KFC fran­chise holder Yoma Strate­gic also started its op­er­a­tions with a clear plan to open sev­eral out­lets, first in Yan­gon and then across Myan­mar. The group says it is on track to have 12 KFC restau­rants open by March next year.

MFG, how­ever, only sought ap­proval from the US Burger King com­pany for a sin­gle out­let in Yan­gon In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Pra­pat Siang­jan, the firm’s gen­eral man­ager for Burger King Thai­land, said.

The firm has spe­cialised in run­ning Burger Kings in air­ports – it started its Thai op­er­a­tions with restau­rants at Su­varn­ab­humi Air­port, and its first ex­pan­sion out­side of Thai­land was into air­ports in the Mal­dives, he said.

Myan­mar’s new in­ter­na­tional air­port Ter­mi­nal 1 and an­tic­i­pated tourist growth prompted MFG’s de­ci­sion to make the coun­try its sec­ond over­seas lo­ca­tion, he added.

The lack of pub­lic­ity was down to two fac­tors. Firstly, when the out­let opened in July not all Ter­mi­nal 1 op­er­a­tions were on­line, said Mr Siang­jan. Only two car­ri­ers were us­ing the new space, al­though more have since moved in. MFG is also en­ter­ing a new mar­ket and wants to make sure its op­er­a­tions are run­ning smoothly and ser­vice stan­dards are up to scratch be­fore the of­fi­cial launch, he added.

A PR an­nounce­ment and open­ing in ex­pected due course, he said.

Mr Siang­jan hopes MFG will be able to open many more out­lets out­side of the air­port. But ex­pan­sion will de­pend partly on how well the ini­tial branch does, which will help MFG gauge de­mand. It is likely to be at least a year be­fore the firm de­cides to ex­pand, he added.

One is­sue with the ini­tial lo­ca­tion is that many of the cus­tomers are likely to be de­part­ing tourists, which Mr Siang­jan ad­mit­ted could make it hard to assess lo­cal ap­petite. The prices at the air­port out­let – which are de­nom­i­nated in dol­lars – have also raised eye­brows, with a stan­dard value whop­per meal go­ing for US$8.50.

One po­ten­tial plan is to open a sec­ond Burger King at the do­mes­tic ter­mi­nal next door, which would have prices in kyat and cater more to lo­cals, but ne­go­ti­a­tions for a sec­ond out­let are at a very early stage, he said.

Ap­ply­ing for per­mis­sion for the first air­port out­let was rel­a­tively smooth, he said. MFG ap­plied to­wards the end of 2015, and re­ceived the green light early this year. The Thai firm runs the Yan­gon air­port Burger King with­out a lo­cal joint ven­ture part­ner, he added.

Mr Siang­jan could not com­ment on whether the ap­provals process would be any dif­fer­ent for open­ing an out­let out­side of an air­port.

Keep­ing an eye on the new Myan­mar op­er­a­tions should be straight­for­ward, as Yan­gon is closer to MFG’s head of­fice than some of the out­lets it op­er­ates in Thai prov­inces, he said.

But MFG is not guar­an­teed to re­main the only fran­chisee au­tho­rised to op­er­ate Burger King in Myan­mar, and Mr Siang­jan said MFG has to keep in close con­tact with Burger King head­quar­ters to make sure they know if a com­peti­tor ar­rives.

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