Running a restaurant remains a challenging endeavour, as the Thai market is flooded with new eateries every year.
According to a recent report by Wongnai, a Thai restaurant review and lifestyle platform, roughly 50% of new restaurants close their doors within two years of opening.
But amidst this adversity, some operators are thriving, repeatedly achieving success with new eateries. Iberry Homemade Co, also known as the Iberry Group, owns successful brands such as Kub Kao Kub Pla and ThongSmith.
While many restaurant chains remain cautious because the economic effects of the pandemic are still lingering and the industry has not yet returned to previous levels, Atchara Burarak, the founder of Iberry Group, has been expanding since last year.
Her aggressive expansion includes the introduction of five new restaurant brands in Thailand since the pandemic.
Mrs Atchara at Chin Bo Dang, a premium moo kata restaurant that opened its doors on the sixth floor of The Emquartier in June this year.
Chin Bo Dang, a premium moo kata (hot pot) establishment, opened its doors on the sixth floor of The Emquartier mall in June this year.
The eatery has consistently drawn a substantial crowd of eager customers from its first day of operation, said Mrs Atchara.
"I believe consumers are confident in our branding, food quality, taste and unwavering commitment to excellence," she said.
"We are serious about expanding all the food brands we've launched to the market, making them a stalwart presence in Thailand's food and beverage industry."
Chin Bo Dang was conceived to address unpleasant odours at hot pot chains and the lack of suitable cookware. It offers a wide range of seasonings, vegetables and meats, elevating the standards of grilled cuisine to international levels, said Mrs Atchara.
She has plans to introduce another restaurant brand named "Oh My Godmother" (OMGM) to the market by the end of this year. The first OMGM restaurant, covering 280 square metres of space, is set to open at the Marche community mall on Thonglor Soi 55 in November.
A second branch, spanning 150 sq m, is slated for The Emsphere project near The Emporium in December, with both requiring an investment of 30 million baht.
OMGM marks a milestone as the first restaurant joint venture with a Korean partner that operates restaurants in Vietnam.
OMGM caters to customers seeking an array of offerings, including fresh pasta, sandwiches, salads and a diverse menu selection.
Mrs Atchara entered Thailand's 400-billion-baht food industry in 1999 when she introduced Iberry, a premium homemade ice cream brand, before embarking on a journey to create a variety of restaurant concepts.
The Iberry Group now boasts a portfolio of 14 restaurant brands, including the upcoming OMGM.
The portfolio encompasses a wide spectrum of culinary experiences, ranging from Iberry ice cream and Kub Kao Kub Pla to ThongSmith (Siamese boat noodles), Ros'niyom, Charoen Gang, Burn Busaba (a spicy salad restaurant), Rongsi Pochana, Fa Pa Tahn (specialising in fish noodle and rice soup), Fran's brunch and green café, as well as An Com An Ca, a Vietnamese restaurant.
VEERING FROM TRADITION
Most restaurants within the Iberry Group are strategically located in retail malls, with a predominant focus on Thai-style cuisine.
However, An Com An Ca marked a departure as the group's first Vietnamese restaurant is situated outside a retail mall. Nestled in Soi Ngam Du Phli in the Sathon area, it occupies a 100-year-old Indo-Chinese house adorned with wooden decor, geometric tiles and paintings.
"Introducing Vietnamese cuisine presented a formidable challenge for me," she said.
"I gave it a long period of consideration as this was unfamiliar territory. I was unsure whether customers would embrace An Com An Ca."
This culinary venture was inspired during her travels to Vietnam, where she was captivated by the artistry, vibrant colours and fusion of French and Vietnamese architectural elements. Consequently, she decided to create An Com An Ca, offering a unique take on Vietnamese cuisine not typically found in Vietnam itself.
The menu was crafted by a Vietnamese chef, with flavours tailored to suit Thai preferences, combining sour, sweet, spicy and salty elements in a single dish.
Despite Mrs Atchara's initial lack of experience in the food industry, she has emerged as a leading figure among Thai restaurateurs. Each of her food brands has cultivated a devoted fan base, with most achieving profitability within six months to two years.
These eateries have also proved popular with foreign tourists visiting Thailand.
"We have encountered challenges on our journey, and while not every brand has thrived, we remain steadfast in our pursuit of success. Every baht of investment comes from our passion, clear goals and our beliefs," she said.
"Some of our group's accomplishments can be attributed to our genuine commitment to our customers and the efficiency of our teams. Our food brands are not fleeting trends. Instead, we take ordinary food and infuse it with compelling storytelling. We prioritise simplicity, ensuring that our offerings are easy for consumers to grasp."
According to Mrs Atchara, Iberry Group generates annual sales of 1.5 billion baht, with 750 million baht coming from ThongSmith, the boat noodle brand.
The company plans to spend 200 million baht to open 20 new restaurants, both existing and new brands, this year.
A substantial portion of the budget will be allocated to constructing a new central kitchen on a 12-rai plot of land in Samut Sakhon, she said.
Beyond the domestic market, Mrs Atchara is keen on expanding her restaurant portfolio, including Kub Kao Kub Pla and ThongSmith, into international markets such as Vietnam and Hong Kong.
The group is also conducting a feasibility study to explore the potential of listing on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, she said.