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Korean franchises lined up for overseas markets

From fried chicken to bibimbap, Korean franchises lined up for overseas markets

The first overseas store of Bulgogi Brothers, a local franchise specializing in Korean barbeque, opened Thursday within a hip shopping mall in Makati, the financial hub of the Philippines. 

For Zeus Yi, the company’s president, the Manila opening represents the culmination of his research and preparations over the past three years.

“I found there’s no Korean restaurant on the fancy dining floor of the shopping mall. The market potential seemed enough because the delicious flavor of bulgogi would appeal to any palate,” Yi said. 

The former hotelier was the same person who first introduced American family restaurant chains TGI Friday’s and Outback Steakhouse to Korea in the 1990s. And now Yi aims to go global with Korean food. 

Bulgogi Brothers, established in 2006, offers bulgogi, or grilled beef with soy sauce and sesame marinade, and other barbequed items with its stores embracing modern ambience. 

Rather than directly operating the Manila store, the start-up company has inked a partnership deal with the Philippines-based Bistro Group, the nation’s largest franchise operator. 

“Finding a good business partner is the most important thing in overseas operations. But some day when the company becomes big enough, I want to enter the Chinese market directly,” Yi said. 

Bulgogi Brothers is the latest among many Korean restaurant franchises that seek global expansion recently. 

With the domestic market nearing saturation, the rush for global markets started in the early 2000s. 

Along with the soaring Chinese market, Southeast Asian countries have been preferred destinations as the popularity of K-pop in the region helps companies settle relatively easily. 

More recently, companies also open their flagship stores in the United States, Japan and Europe, aiming to gain premium image. 

Even though the awareness of Korean food is low among foreign customers, it is also true that such a low publicity adds uniqueness to Korean restaurants. 

Kyochon Chicken, a household name of soy-sauce fried chicken which has more than 1,000 stores nationwide, is considered one of the most successful Korean franchise chains abroad. 

Starting with the first overseas store in Los Angeles in 2007, Kyochon currently operates six locations in the United States and one in Shanghai. 

“Americans have long been accustomed to the flavor of KFC chicken. For them, the soy sauce-coated chicken wing was brand new and attractive,” said Kang Jung-goo, a Kyochon official. 

“We first entered the Korea town in Los Angeles for soft landing but since then local consumers have become our main target,” he said. 

The latest store, located in Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, logs $30,000-35,000 in daily sales and almost $400,000 monthly. 

If Kyochon entered overseas markets based on its strong performance in Korea, Bibigo, a fast-food chain for bibimbap operated by CJ Foodville, has targeted foreign customers from the very beginning in May last year. 
Customers eat bibimbap at the patio of Bibigo’s Los Angeles branch. (CJ Foodville)

Along with five stores in Korea, the bibimbap chain has three overseas branches in Beijing, Los Angeles and Singapore. 

Through market research across regions, the company found people have different preferences for main ingredients of bibimbap. 

The company now boosts its “healthy and fast” concept, allowing customers to select their toppings, including rice and sauce, so their customized dish is served within one minute. 

“A brand that has targeted Korean consumers may have difficulties meeting the needs of foreign consumers. So, we decided our concept that would appeal to foreigners as well as Koreans from the beginning,” said Kim Moo-jong, spokesperson of CJ Foodville.

“Our final goal is to become an international franchise like McDonalds. Because bibimbap is healthy food, it has competitiveness even in the global market,” he said.

There are also other successful cases. Lotteria, a fast food chain run by Lotte Group, is the first local franchise chain to go global with 98 branches in Vietnam and China. Paris Baguette is considered a premium bakery chain as it is located in the well-off Gubei area of Shanghai. 

Caffe Bene, the nation’s No. 1 specialty coffee house chain, plans to open its first overseas store in New York within the year, while Bistro Seoul, a high-end hansik restaurant of SunAtFood, aims to open branches in New York, Tokyo and Shanghai in the coming five years. 

Ahn Suk-young, director of policy planning at Korea Franchise Association, said overseas operation helps local companies strengthen their brand power, adding that “Franchise business is all about increasing the number of chain stores.”

“However, few companies with big money are seeing profits abroad based on their delicate market research. Now is the ‘transition period’ after the first generation of franchise chains has experienced trial and error at a great cost,” he said. 

Ahn agreed going global is the right direction for local restaurant chains in the long term but advised smaller businesses to find a reliable local partner to reduce initial investment and following risks.

By Lee Ji-yoon (

  미국 LA 음식 전문가들 "한식 저평가됐다"
  트랙백 주소 :

미국 LA 음식 전문가들 "한식 저평가됐다"

 미국 로스앤젤레스 유명 식당 주방장 등 음식 전문가들이 9일 (현지시간) 한국 문화원이 마련한 한국 음식 토론회에서 한국 음식을 맛보고 있다. /연합뉴스
“누구나 좋아하는, 절대 실패하지 않는 메뉴”, “이제는 전면에 나설 때가 됐다.”

미국 로스앤젤레스 지역 유명 레스토랑 주방장을 비롯한 음식 전문가들이 내놓은 한국 음식에 대한 평가다.

로스앤젤레스 한국문화원은 9일(현지시각) 저녁 로스앤젤레스 시내 호텔에서 음식 전문가를 초청해 한국 음식을 맛보이고 한국 음식에 대한 의견을 나누는 행사를 열었다.

이 행사는 한식 쿠킹쇼 ’캐슬린의 한국 주방’이 미국 공영방송 PBS를 통해 방영된 것을 기념하기 위해 마련됐다.
’캐슬린의 한국 주방’은 한식 전문가 캐슬린 최씨가 남부 캘리포니아 유명 요리사들과 한국 요리를 만들어보는 프로그램으로 모두 8편이 제작됐고, 특히 7,8 편은 이명박 대통령의 부인 김윤옥 여사의 요리책 ’김윤옥의 한국 이야기’를 토대로 만들었다.

레스토랑 블루워터그릴의 수석 주방장 브라이언 허스티는 “이번 프로그램 제작에 참여하면서 한국 음식을 제대로 알게 됐고, 현재 불고기와 갈비를 이용한 타코 메뉴를 개발해 내놓고 있다. 누구나 좋아하는, 절대 실패하지 않는 메뉴 중 하나”라고 말했다.

코크 앤드 플래터 레스토랑 주방장 마리아 스파크스는 “여태까지 미국에서 한국음식이 덜 알려져서 저평가 받아왔지만 이제는 전면에 나설 때가 됐다고 생각한다. 한국음식은 색채와 모양이 다양하고 아름답다는 것이 큰 장점”이라면서 “한식의 세계화를 위해 한식의 아름다움을 가장 효과적으로 보여줄 수 있는 방법을 찾는 것도 좋을 것”이라고 조언했다.

PBS 남캘리포니아 지사 론 배치나 부사장은 “미국에 상대적으로 덜 알려진 한국의 식재료와 독특한 한국의 맛이 PBS를 통해 소개돼 기쁘고, 개인적으로도 매우 흥미롭게 봤다”고 말했다.

한편 김윤옥 여사는 “세계인들에게 한식의 조리법을 알기 쉽게 전해드리고자 출판한 요리책이 이 쿠킹쇼에 인용돼 가슴 뿌듯하게 생각한다”면서 “이 프로그램과 오늘의 행사를 계기로 더 많은 미국인들이 한국음식을 즐기고 한국인들과 아름다운 우정을 쌓아가게 되길 바란다”는 인사말을 로스앤젤레스 총영사관을 통해 전달했다.

이들은 이날 문화원이 마련한 삼계탕과 갈비찜 등을 즐겼다.


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