Singapore restaurant chain Putien to open in Taiwan

Wowprime's chairman Park Chen (far left) and Putien's founder Fong Chi Chung will offer Singapore dishes chilli crab, stir-fried kang kong with belacan and a crispy fried durian dessert, among other items, in Taiwan. PHOTO: PUTIEN

The Singapore restaurant chain ties up with Taiwan restaurant group Wowprime Corporation

After venturing into Hong Kong last year and Shanghai in June, home- grown restaurant chain Putien will open in Taiwan by the end of the year.

While the location has not been confirmed, the 15-year-old restaurant chain, which specialises in Fujian cuisine, is likely to be located in a busy mall in Taipei.

The brand's opening in Taiwan is a joint venture with publicly listed Taiwan restaurant group Wow- prime Corporation. This is their second collaboration after they opened Italian-style meat-free restaurant Sufood at Raffles City last year.

This partnership is Wowprime's first foray into serving Chinese cuisine in Taiwan.

The group - best known for its steakhouses - owns 15 restaurant brands that serve Western or Japanese cuisine, with more than 400 outlets in Taiwan and China.

More than 70 per cent of the menu here will be available in Taiwan. Signature dishes include braised pig intestine, stir-fried yam, deep-fried pig's trotters with salt and pepper, braised bean curd with Chinese cabbage and "100 second" stewed yellow croaker, where the fish is stewed with ginger for precisely 100 seconds.

Similar to its Hong Kong and Shanghai outlets, there will also be a small menu of dishes representing Singapore such as chilli crab, stir-fried kang kong with belacan and a crispy fried durian dessert.

One of Wowprime's executive chefs, Wang Ying-chin, will helm Putien in Taiwan and is already in Singapore to learn the recipes.

Like it is here, Putien will be a mid-range restaurant in Taiwan. Wowprime's chairman Park Chen, 54, estimates average spending a person to be around NT$500 (S$22) to NT$700, similar to that in Singapore.

Calling their partnership a "marriage", Putien's founder Fong Chi Chung, 47, says jokingly in Mandarin: "Mr Chen gave me his daughter, Sufood, to look after. Now, I give him my son, Putien."

Mr Chen says confidently in Mandarin: "Once everything is in place, we can open 20 to 30 Putien outlets. It shouldn't be a problem."

This is in line with Mr Fong's vision for opening at least three outlets a year in every city overseas.

Mr Chen assured Life that food safety is of utmost importance to them. Last year, Wowprime was affected by the food scandal in Taiwan, where inferior animal- feed-grade oil was discovered in its products.

Unfazed, he says: "That was an issue with the manufacturer and we ended up using their oil. It is no longer a problem and we have stringent checks and certification to ensure that our ingredients are safe."

The duo first met in 2008 when Mr Fong went on a trip to Taiwan with Spring Singapore to learn about the food and beverage industry there.

Back then, Mr Fong found himself agreeing with the business philosophy and core values of Wowprime and sought out the company to work with it closely.

He acknowledges Mr Chen as his "teacher" and notes that their collaboration is "mutually beneficial" as they specialise in different cuisines.

Research into the Taiwan market also showed him that many locals eat out frequently and are constantly looking for new dining concepts to try. And with Mr Fong's knowledge of the South-east Asian market, Mr Chen does not rule out opening more of Wowprime's food brands in the region, especially those that do not serve pork.

Expansion in Singapore will continue as well. By the end of this year, Putien's 11th outlet will open at Causeway Point, along with Sufood's second outlet at Wheelock Place.

Looking back on when Putien started out as a coffee shop in Kitchener Road in 2000, Mr Fong says: "Fifteen years ago, we had only about seven people working in the coffee shop. Now, we're located in Ion and opening in Taiwan. We have built up the brand and I hope people recognise us as a Singapore brand."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2015, with the headline 'Putien to open Taipei outlet'. Print Edition | Subscribe