THE NOO­DLE TRAIL

As the take­away scene evolves in Aus­tralia, Asian cui­sine is tak­ing over the sec­tor.

Inside Franchise Business - - Contents - By Gali Blacher

As the take­away scene evolves in Aus­tralia, Asian cui­sine is boom­ing.

Asian cui­sine is in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar in western cul­ture, es­pe­cially in coun­tries such as Aus­tralia and the US. With a va­ri­ety of op­tions avail­able such as sashimi for health-con­scious con­sumers to fried rice and noo­dles for the less fussy, Asian cui­sine re­ally has some­thing for ev­ery­one.

Ac­cord­ing to IbisWorld se­nior an­a­lyst Bao Vuong, in­ter­na­tional fast food, in­clud­ing Asian take­away, has gained pop­u­lar­ity over the past five years, and these prod­ucts have con­se­quently in­creased as a share of in­dus­try rev­enue. Wider aware­ness of for­eign cuisines and con­sumers be­ing more re­cep­tive to try­ing new foods have sup­ported this growth.

Fast-food com­pa­nies have faced in­creas­ingly strong com­pe­ti­tion from ex­ter­nal sources over the past five years, says Vuong. Su­per­mar­kets have ex­panded their ranges of home­cooked meal re­place­ments, and have emerged as one-stop shops that pro­vide con­sumers with fast, af­ford­able and high-qual­ity food. While many of these prod­ucts sub­sti­tute tra­di­tional fast food,

con­sumers pre­fer take­away joints that are also sit-down restau­rants. Asian food es­pe­cially has a great pop­u­lar­ity with fast-food fanciers who want more va­ri­ety be­yond burg­ers.

Vuong pre­dicts that in the next five years, in­creases in house­hold dis­cre­tionary in­come are pro­jected to boost sales. Com­pet­i­tive pres­sures will likely force some play­ers to exit the in­dus­try, but this will be off­set by an in­flux of new play­ers in rel­a­tively niche mar­kets, such as Asian take­away.

To gain an in­sight, In­side Fran­chise Busi­ness had a chat to three Asian take­away fran­chises.

MISSCHU

Misschu was founded in Syd­ney in 2009 by Nahji Chu as a cater­ing busi­ness spe­cial­is­ing in Asian canapés. Peo­ple walk­ing past the tiny kitchen in Dar­linghurst kept knock­ing on the glass and ask­ing to buy the food, so even­tu­ally a “tuck­shop” win­dow and bam­boo awning were added, and Chu started sell­ing on the street. The brand quickly earned a cult sta­tus with daily queues along the foot­path.

With a back­ground in pri­vate eq­uity, MD Gabi Machado ap­proached Chu in

The ma­jor change in the past cou­ple of years has ob­vi­ously been the mass move­ment to on­line or­der­ing and de­liv­ery … this has re­duced the com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage of be­ing ‘lo­cal’ and has re­ally high­lighted the im­por­tance of brand strength

2010 with the idea of tak­ing her Syd­ney­based Viet­namese con­cept to Mel­bourne. This year Machado joined forces with DC Strat­egy con­sul­tants to ex­pand the Misschu tuck­shop network from three to 50 over the next five-plus years. The Misschu team says it is de­ter­mined to do things dif­fer­ently, growing the busi­ness with a “fresh mind­set” and ‘”real dis­ci­pline” to en­sure each new lo­ca­tion has a gen­uine feel and at­mos­phere for em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers.

It has not been an easy path. The busi­ness en­tered vol­un­tary ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2014, which ap­par­ently did not af­fect the Mel­bourne and London branches.

Machado says peo­ple ex­pect bang for their buck with Asian food, so the value propo­si­tion is re­ally im­por­tant. “The ma­jor change in the past cou­ple of years has ob­vi­ously been the mass move­ment to on­line or­der­ing and de­liv­ery. In our view, this has re­duced the com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage of be­ing ‘lo­cal’ to your cus­tomer and has re­ally high­lighted the im­por­tance of brand strength,” he says.

Aes­thet­ics are also im­por­tant when it comes to choos­ing prop­erty for the Misschu tuck­shops. “We look for spa­ces with char­ac­ter that let us cre­ate a unique de­sign with an au­then­tic Misschu feel. Rather than a cookie-cut­ter ap­proach, we ac­cen­tu­ate the in­di­vid­u­al­ity of each lo­ca­tion and stamp Misschu’s sig­na­ture on to it,” says Machado.

“To date, the strength of the brand has helped a great deal in ne­go­ti­a­tions with land­lords and we ex­pect this to in­crease go­ing for­ward.”

Each Misschu tuck­shop typ­i­cally has 50 to 90 seats. “We are known for our high en­ergy, bustling and fun vibe. The com­mon­al­i­ties across the shops are the ca­sual style, fast ser­vice, great tunes and the clat­ter and flames from the wok,” says Machado.

He be­lieves owner-run restau­rants typ­i­cally pro­vide a su­pe­rior ex­pe­ri­ence for cus­tomers be­cause of the to­tal com­mit­ment to the suc­cess of the busi­ness. “The fran­chise model en­ables this and pro­vides a fair and struc­tured re­la­tion­ship, when man­aged well.”

While the menu is Viet­namese in­spired, most dishes are unique to Misschu. There is a strong health-con­scious bent, in­cor­po­rat­ing in­gre­di­ents such as low-carb shi­rataki noo­dles, low-GI rice, fresh At­lantic salmon, grass­fed beef and olive oil. Most of the menu is gluten free and dairy free, and there are op­tions for veg­e­tar­i­ans and ve­g­ans.

MON­KEY KING THAI

Mon­key King Thai is a fam­ily-owned busi­ness that was one of the first Thai restau­rants in Aus­tralia. While the busi­ness has been around for many years, the fran­chise model is rel­a­tively new.

There are three lo­ca­tions, all in Syd­ney (Lind­field, New­port and Narrabeen), and while all are com­pany owned, the ball is rolling with po­ten­tial fran­chisees.

“Syd­neysiders love our Thai food and the Mon­key King Thai brand, so we have ma­jor ex­pan­sion plans in place for New

South Wales, in­clud­ing Bondi and Rhodes,” says CEO Top K. Ji­trak­thaipakdee.

The com­pany is in the early stages of the fran­chis­ing pro­gram but aims to open the five new lo­ca­tions by the end of this year. Other po­ten­tial lo­ca­tions in­clude lower Syd­ney, North Shore, the north­ern beaches, Broad­way Shop­ping Cen­tre, World Square, Top Ryde, Mac­quarie Cen­tre, and Rouse Hill.

The fran­chisor says the Asian food sec­tor is highly frag­mented and dom­i­nated by in­de­pen­dent owner/op­er­a­tors. “We have in­tro­duced lots of pro­cesses, sys­tems and stan­dard­ised pro­ce­dures, says Ji­trak­thaipakdee. “We have an op­er­a­tions man­ager and head chefs who con­stantly mon­i­tor the qual­ity. This con­sis­tency and de­liv­ery of high-qual­ity prod­ucts and ex­pe­ri­ences en­sures we are dif­fer­en­ti­ated in this sec­tor and our fran­chisees will be well sup­ported.

“While we look for high-traf­fic sites and seek to part­ner with other restau­rants in a food precinct, we are not re­liant on high-rent lo­ca­tions. Ul­ti­mately, we are con­ser­va­tive in our site se­lec­tion and need to en­sure our rents are within an ac­cept­able per­cent­age of our sales,” he says.

De­scribed as con­tem­po­rary and mod­ern, the menu is based on fam­ily recipes ad­justed to the Aus­tralian palate.

A Mon­key King Thai restau­rant aims to cater for most food in­tol­er­ances, pro­vide a va­ri­ety of tra­di­tional and au­then­tic dishes, and ap­peals to fam­i­lies. The group is look­ing for com­pas­sion­ate and fun fran­chisees who love be­ing sur­rounded by friends and fam­ily.

Ul­ti­mately, we are con­ser­va­tive in our site se­lec­tion and need to en­sure our rents are within an ac­cept­able per­cent­age of our sales.

SOONTA

Soonta’s story be­gan in 2008 when the fran­chise set up a small shop on Way­mouth Street in Ade­laide. The mis­sion was sim­ple: eat tasty, eat healthy. Fast for­ward al­most 10 years and the com­pany now has 10 stores around South Aus­tralia.

“We only get to eat three meals a day, so it is im­por­tant those meals make us happy. The way we see it, bal­ance in our life and in our diet is a big part of cul­ti­vat­ing hap­pi­ness. Red Rooster This is where we come in,” says mar­ket­ing man­ager Sweet Tang.

“Our Viet­namese-in­spired menu is filled to the brim with nour­ish­ing and de­li­cious food, all of which is made fresh daily.”

Soonta is proudly South Aus­tralian founded and owned, and sources its in­gre­di­ents lo­cally. The fran­chise has 10 stores, six of which are fran­chised. All stores are within South Aus­tralia, with the lat­est out­let in Golden Grove. The com­pany has in­quiries from in­ter­state and over­seas, and is seek­ing suit­able mas­ter fran­chise part­ners.

Soonta be­lieves that in or­der to make good tra­di­tional Asian food, a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in the food in­dus­try is es­sen­tial. Try­ing for con­sis­tency from a se­cret home recipe is the big­gest challenge for the com­pany.

Prop­erty prices are a huge cost, and in or­der to com­bat this and main­tain a mar­gin, the com­pany works on a port­fo­lio mix of prod­ucts and ad­justs prices ac­cord­ingly.

“It’s quite chal­leng­ing when you face in­creas­ing pres­sure on op­er­a­tional costs and re­duced spending from the de­mand side: both are a re­sult of high prop­erty prices,” says Tang.

Soonta stud­ies its com­peti­tors and strives to al­ways be bet­ter. “It’s about know­ing your weak­nesses and strengths to po­si­tion your­self right,” Tang says.

Our Viet­namese-in­spired menu is filled to the brim with nour­ish­ing and de­li­cious food, all of which is made fresh daily.

Mon­key King Thai

Misschu

Soonta

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