MK Restaurant Group Plc is a multibrand restaurant group with branches throughout Thailand and elsewhere in Asia. It listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in August 2013 and trades under the symbol M. Chief executive Rit Thirakomen discusses the company’s strategy and outlook.
Rit Thirakomen says MK Restaurant will continue to expand at home and abroad.
What is your business model?
MK Restaurant Group has developed from the MK Suki Restaurant brand to become a multibrand group with brands covering four types of cuisine: the Suki restaurants MK Suki and MK Gold; the Thai restaurants Na Siam and Le Siam; the Japanese restaurants Yayoi, Miyazaki and Hakata; and the coffee shop and bakery chain Le Petit. Today we have more than 500 branches throughout Thailand and the region.
Your company has been developing new restaurant brands in recent years. Could you explain the process behind this?
We created our second brand, Yayoi, which is Japanese fast-casual cuisine, six years ago and expanded it very quickly to 120 branches today. Last year we developed Miyazaki, which is teppanyaki-style Japanese cuisine. This is new for the Thai market, as most Thais understand yakiniku, in which you self-barbecue the food, but this can be an issue since not everyone is a chef. We approached the Miyazaki brand with the same mindset of ensuring the best quality of food and service can be provided to our customers. Thus, we devised a system that makes teppanyaki more affordable and yet still tasty for our customers. We expect to have 13 branches this year and another 15 next year.
MK Restaurant Group has expanded throughout Thailand and the region. Could you provide an update?
Our two key brands, MK Suki and MK Gold, have grown very well in the past decade. For the next seven to 10 years, Thailand will continue to develop as a nation, and we see opportunities in both the provincial and suburban areas to continue our expansion.
Regarding the region, our first phase of expansion was to test the response of our brands throughout Asia, and this has been successful, with two outlets in Vietnam, 31 in Japan, six in Singapore and one in Indonesia. The second phase of our expansion will be to rapidly open several branches to ensure we have a dominant position in each respective country.
Your company has embraced social responsibility unlike any other restaurant group. Why is this?
We’ve changed our core idea and philosophy over the history of the company, to emphasise we are not just providing food that is delicious but want our customers to be happy and bring happiness to their families. A lot of families visit our restaurants, and on Mother’s Day we provide jasmine flowers for the children to give to their mothers. We provide a framed photo on their behalf as well. We also want to promote health, with the calorie counts of the meals provided. We remove all chemical residues from our foods, use no MSG, and for example our famous green noodles are natural in colour, as we use crushed vegetables instead of preservatives.
What else differentiates MK from its competitors?
The two most common characteristics of our people here are we work hard and learn faster than our competitors. When you open a restaurant, you’re making a commitment to provide good service to your customers. We listen to our customers’ feedback and think about how to improve our service to make them happy, and that’s the commitment we have made from the beginning, to keep improving by learning, adjusting, adapting and improving.
What are the biggest risks facing your business?
Since we began we’ve been working very hard, and there was no opportunity to worry about anything. Our philosophy is to keep moving forward, past any obstacles that occur. Thailand has endured many crises such as the tom yum kung crisis, bird flu, mad cow disease, political crises where our shops were burned down, floods and so forth. But today we have 400 branches with a wide selection of multiple food choices, and we’re financially conservative, so we know we can sustain the business through crises and keep moving forward.
What impact will the Asean Economic Community (AEC) have on your business?
Indirectly, every business is affected. Perhaps there will be a few more opportunities, as regulations between countries will be relaxed and it will be easier to conduct business. Even before the AEC officially takes effect, we have already been expanding. The same goes for labour — people are already moving around the region. Thailand does have an advantage over most of its neighbours since the country is more developed, but a main issue is still that our English skills are not as strong as they should be.
Where do you see MK five years from now?
We are working towards building 1,000 branches for all our brands. Perhaps we will have another related business become a part of our company, and I hope you will see many of our brands throughout Asia. Also, MK Restaurant is now a 30-year-old company, and most of our pioneers are going to retire in the next five to 10 years, so the new generation will become the next leaders of the company. We are preparing everything for them, with a modern office, a modern central kitchen so they will understand that the future of our business is to be innovative. Finally, our mission remains the same: no matter where in Thailand or Asia they visit our restaurants, we want to provide to our customers the best service, the best quality food and the best dining experience.
Source: Bangkok Post