Hong Kong can create competitive restaurant brands like Tim Ho Wan: catering veteran

Hong Kong is capable of creating competitive restaurant brands, a catering veteran said following Jolibee Foods’ acquisition of dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan.

Despite its small size, the city gives birth to creative brands which attracts overseas catering giants,
Chairman of the Institution of Dining Art Simon Wong Kit-Lung said.

Philippine company Jollibee Foods, known for the fast food chain Jollibee, has agreed to take full control of Tim Ho Wan by acquiring the remaining 15 percent stake from Titan Dining LP for S$71.56 million (US$52.7 million).

“Its (Jollibee Food’s) wholly-owned subsidiary Jollibee Worldwide Pte. Ltd. which already owns an 85 percent participating interest in the fund shall pay 71.56 million (Singaporean dollars) to purchase the remaining 15 percent interests of other investors in Titan Dining LP,” the fast food giant told Philippines’ stock regulator last Wednesday.

Titan is the private equity fund owning Tim Ho Wan, which has 53 outlets in Asia including six in Hong Kong.

Based on the acquisition, it is estimated that Tim Ho Wan comes with a market value of HK$2.7 billion.

Tim Ho Wan was started by Chef Mak Kwai-Pui, formerly of the three Michelin starred Lung King Heen restaurant in Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel, alongside chef Leung Fai-keung in 2009.

The duo opened their first 20-seater dim sum restaurant in Mongkok. A year later, they earned one Michelin star for the restaurant. It was once called the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.

In the 12 years to follow, it has since expanded to cover Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, United States and Vietnam.
Jollibee bought a 45 percent stake in Tim Ho Wan for S$45 million in May 2018. Its stake increased to 85 percent last year.

In 2020, Jollibee reached an agreement with Tim Ho Wan to launch outlets on the mainland, including Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. It aims to launch 100 outlets in five years.

Wong said Hong Kongers have created restaurant brands which attract attention of overseas attention.

One example was when Toridoll Holdings, operator of Japanese udon restaurant chain Marugame Seimen, spent bought noodle chain TamJai.

It paid HK$1 billion to buy TamJai in May 2017 and SamGor for HK$1.11 billion in December in the same year.

International catering giants are interested in expanding the Hong Kong brands not only locally but overseas, Wong said. They are interested in models which can be replicated in franchise stores.

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