Close-Up

Raised in his fam­ily’s hos­pi­tal­ity empire, bold busi­ness­man Piyalert Baiyoke is mak­ing his mark as a restau­rant en­tre­pre­neur. He talks shop with Nicha­ree Phati­tit

Thailand Tatler - - NOVEMBER -

Piyalert Baiyoke and Anu­jtha Jao­visidha have much in com­mon, not least their en­trepreneurial na­tures, in­ter­ests in ho­tels and their re­spec­tive am­bi­tions to build restau­rant chain em­pires

Men­tion the name Baiyoke and an iconic Bangkok sky­scraper will prob­a­bly come to mind. The tower is part of the busi­ness group owned by the fam­ily of the same name and it con­tains the four-star Baiyoke Sky Ho­tel, so it is no sur­prise that Piyalert Baiyoke, the 37-year-old scion of the fam­ily, be­gan his ca­reer in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try— al­though his busi­ness in­ter­ests have grown to en­com­pass much more than that.

Piyalert is a vice chair­man of the Baiyoke Group and also chair­man of PDS Hold­ing, a fran­chise busi­ness that has in­tro­duced nu­mer­ous pop­u­lar Ja­panese restau­rant chains to Thai­land. In fact, Piyalert has an affin­ity for Ja­pan. Af­ter com­plet­ing his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in ed­u­ca­tion at Chu­la­longkorn Univer­sity he took a gap year in Ja­pan to learn the lan­guage be­fore pur­su­ing a mas­ter’s de­gree in mar­ket­ing at Ex­eter Univer­sity in the UK.

“Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, I came back to Thai­land to help with my fam­ily’s busi­nesses in the Baiyoke Group,” he says. “Ba­si­cally, I went to my fa­ther’s of­fice and asked him what I could do to be use­ful.” His fa­ther tasked him with ren­o­vat­ing the Baiyoke Bou­tique Ho­tel, an old eight-storey es­tab­lish­ment close to Baiyoke Tower in the Pratu­nam dis­trict. It was a chal­leng­ing project for the then 23-yearold to cut his teeth on. “The most dif­fi­cult as­pect was that I wasn’t given very much in the way of fund­ing for the ren­o­va­tion,” he laughs. “I had a bud­get of around five mil­lion baht to re-vamp 200 rooms. So I came up with a plan to do the work piece­meal. We started with the lobby and a hand­ful of rooms. Th­ese we let out to cus­tomers and used the in­come to fund the ren­o­va­tion of the other floors. I was very busy af­ter that, help­ing to de­velop mar­ket­ing strate­gies and con­cepts for what be­came known as the Baiyoke Sky Ho­tel and later our Hua Chang Her­itage Ho­tel.”

It was at this point that Piyalert had the urge to branch out into some­thing else. A self-con­fessed foodie, un­able to find what he con­sid­ered to be a de­cent yakiniku grilled meat restau­rant in Bangkok, he de­cided to seek the fran­chise for one un­der PDS Hold­ing. “It started off as some­thing quite small. I had no plans to grow it but the re­sponse was ex­cep­tional so we opened a sec­ond branch, which did even bet­ter. Even­tu­ally the peo­ple at the brand’s head­quar­ters in Ja­pan no­ticed our suc­cess and struck a deal to buy the restau­rants back. It worked out well be­cause the money al­lowed us to in­vest in the other brands we run to­day, which in­clude Ja­panese ra­men out­lets such as Uchiyada, Ikkousha and Mo­mo­tarou, as well as the pop­u­lar Sekai No Ya­machan iza­kaya restau­rants.” The lat­est brands in the PDS fold are two pop­u­lar dessert café fran­chises, Pablo cheese tart and Gram Pan­cakes. “I like hav­ing some­thing sweet af­ter a meal, so I was pleased that we got them,” Piyalert laughs.

When he’s not fo­cused on ex­pand­ing his restau­rant empire—and he has big plans for his own ra­men noo­dle fac­tory and even­tu­ally a list­ing on the Thai stock ex­change—Piyalert can be found watch­ing foot­ball, hang­ing out with friends en­joy­ing a meal or re­lax­ing with his wife Sun­tha­ree and nine-year-old daugh­ter Ying­piya. A driven busi­ness­man, he ad­mits that he is try­ing to slow down a lit­tle. “I used to work un­til three in the morn­ing but re­cently, I’ve felt like I don’t have much time to my­self. Now on Fri­day af­ter­noons I try to leave a slot free—al­though I of­ten end up us­ing it to go and check on the restau­rants or the ho­tels any­way,” he laughs.

He also has a rule: ev­ery Sun­day he and his fam­ily go to din­ner with his par­ents to spend some qual­ity time to­gether.

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