More than 20 Taiwanese food and dessert chains are exploring business opportunities in Thailand this year.
Brands that are seeking to open franchises in Thailand include Fried Chicken Master, Frozen Heart, Monga Taiwanese style fried chicken, Morn Coo Coo, Yu Fu Yuan restaurant, I.H Art, Thefeen burger, Tea Top, MR Sun, Presotea and HWC Roasters.
"Thailand has become a country with high opportunities and potential for the development of Taiwanese chain brands," said a source from the Association of Chain and Franchise Promotion Taiwan who requested anonymity.
"Rapid urbanisation and development have been taking place in Thailand for the past few years and a mature business model of the retail channel has already been formed in major cities," said the source.
According to statistics from the United Nations, the proportion of the urban population in Thailand has risen to 51.4% in 2020, from 38.8% in 2006.
In close proximity to the countries of Southeast Asia, the people's day-to-day habits and the culture of Taiwan are similar to Thailand's. Such supporting factors have a certain influence on the popular "catering culture" of each nation, said the source.
Sethaphong Phadungpisuth, managing director of consultancy company Gnosis Co, said Thailand's geographic advantage of being located in Southeast Asia has made it the first stop and option for Taiwanese franchise brands looking for markets to enter.
Travis Tsai, international department specialist at Young Qin International Co, the operator of Fried Chicken Master, said the company will expand its business to Thailand as it would like to share Taiwan's special fried chicken with the world.
"Taiwan's best-known food is not only bubble tea but also chicken steak and popcorn chicken,'' Mr Tsai said.
Fried Chicken Master, established in 2014, comes under the Super Qin Group, a leading chicken meat processor in Taiwan, with 35 years of franchise experience.
It currently operates 56 branches -- 30 in Taiwan and the rest in overseas markets including Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia.
Mr Tsai believes there is room for Fried Chicken Master because its fried chicken is completely different from American style fried chicken. The company will seek a Thai partner from Taiwan Franchise Online Biz Matchmaking on Dec 1, organised by the Association Chain and Franchise Promotion Taiwan and Gnosis Co.
Mr Tsai expects to open 10 Fried Chicken Master branches in Thailand and over 400 globally over the next five years.
Meanwhile, Robert Lo, operating officer of Dong Sin Co, operator of Frozen Heart fried ice cream, said when Frozen Heart's leading officials visited Bangkok in 2019, they observed Thai people like to eat ice pops, smoothies and ice cream. Both Taiwan and Thailand have a similar food culture and weather, according to Mr Lo.
Sales of ice cream from quick-service restaurants in Thailand were valued at US$208 million last year, with sales generated from quick-service restaurants estimated to account for around $5 billion.
"These are reasons why we choose Thailand if we want to expand into Asia,'' Mr Lo said, adding that Frozen Heart would be an alternative fried ice cream because of its distinct variety and shape printed with 3D technology. It needs just one employee and a small space so it does not entail high rental fees and labour cost.
Moreover, Frozen Heart has several business models such as counters in department stores, stores on the street, vendors in night markets and food trucks. The franchise fee is about $20,000-80,000.
The company already has 30 locations in Taiwan and 15 more will be added by the end of this year. The goal for 2021 is to double its branches.