Interview: Wowprime engages in cautious expansion
Taiwan News, Staff Reporter
2014-06-12 08:43 PM
14 years ago, Wowprime Corp. (2727) started its first overseas store at the most glamorous Beverly Hills, California, with hopes of copying the success of Taiwan’s best-know high-end Wang Steak steakhouse in the U.S. market. Portershouse Bistro indeed won hearts of locals by providing great steaks at a great value with a nice ambience. Years after its close in 2007 to cut losses, some American foodies left comments at food blogs, asking to bring the store back. Starting from this year, Wowprime is rumored to return to U.S. market as part of the group’s significant global expansion plans.

With 13 brands under its umbrella, including a new mid-ranged Italian restaurant brand ita, Wowprime has now become the largest restaurant group in Taiwan. This year, the group turns more aggressive in expanding its global presence through partnership with well-received foreign foodservice operators. Steve Day, the chairman of Wowprime, emphasized in an interview with Taiwan News that the expansion of its global footprint will be carried out in conservative manner.

“We have a number of requirements in selecting quality partners outside Taiwan: for example, this partner needs to be one of the leading foodservice operators in the country, having large economies of scale, or listed on the stock market,” said Day. Looking at Wowprime’s Singaporean partner Pu Tien Holdings Pte Ltd., for example, it is the leading Chinese-style restaurant in Singapore with eight stores.

Asked about the expansion plan in the U.S., Day declined to give out more details but said the partner is the leader in the industry. Earlier this year, Wowprime was said to team up with a large restaurant chain in the U.S. to set up Yakiyan yakiniku restaurant at the end of this year.

Speaking of the expansion plan in China, Day said currently there are a total of 89 stores at 30 cities in China. The group sees a stable growth in revenue here.

In Singapore, Wowprime opened its first overseas Sufood vegetarian restaurant just weeks ago, marking the group’s first joint venture with a foreign foodservice provider to expand overseas market outlets. Wowprime vice chairman and president Endy Wang spoke at May’s launch conference that the target of the number of Sufood stores in Singapore is five in three years and eight in five years. This partnership allows Wowprime to take advantage of Singapore’s giant foodservice market, which can bring new growth momentum to the group. Pu Tien’s chief executive C.C. Fong said that Sufood is likely to embrace profit in the second month of operation. Another Sufood restaurant in Singapore is expected to start operation by the end of this year.

In addition to the overseas expansion plan, Wowprime is welcoming another new Italian restaurant brand ita, whose 6-course set menu is priced only at NT$380 (US$12.6) with 10 percent service charge. The great value drew an impressive numbers of visitors and generated sales of NT$150,000 to NT$160,000 a day during its test run in Taichung. The ita brand is also expected to contribute greatly to group’s sales based on its current sales performance.

As more luxury hotel and restaurant brands arrived in Taiwan in recent years on booming tourism and economic recovery, asked if Wowprime would consider to step into top-notch luxury restaurant business, Day said the group will continue to engage in offering best-value menu deals to customers pursuant to the group’s core value of highest customer satisfaction at affordable prices.

Wowprime Corp. (2727) recently reported its May consolidated revenue of NT$1.48 billion, up 19.95 percent year-on year. Taiwan market posted revenue NT$1.06 billion in the same month for an annual growth rate of 12.82 percent; the mainland market contributed NT$0.41 billion with year-on-year increase of 43.38 percent.

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