From the ST archives: TGI Friday, Wendy’s and Chili’s return

Casual American restaurant TGI Friday’s is brought in by the Malaysian restaurant group Chaswood Resources. PHOTO: MY PAPER

This article was first published in The Straits Times print edition on Jan 3, 2010.

SINGAPORE - They are back. You can now sink your teeth into the fare of popular American restaurant chains such as Chili’s, TGI Friday’s and Wendy’s that had come to these shores earlier, only to fizzle out.

Here from the 1980s to the 1990s, they had closed due to reasons such as poor business caused by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, as well as franchising issues.

But they have returned under new franchise holders who are confident that demand here for American food remains strong.

Mr Jeffrey Lim, 44, director of Kopitiam Management, a food services management company and franchisee for burger chain Wendy’s in Singapore, says: “Based on our experience in the food and beverage industry, American cuisine is very popular here because diners are highly exposed to American culture from TV programmes and movies.“

And I believe demand for American food such as burgers will continue to grow.”

Wendy’s, which was here in the 1980s, had outlets at Parkway Parade and Far East Plaza. It re-opened at Lau Pa Sat Festival Market last month.

Indeed, diners have been excited about the return of these well-known dining brands.

Casual American restaurant TGI Friday’s, which is brought in by the Malaysian restaurant group Chaswood Resources, was packed when it opened late last month at The Heeren and business continues to be “extremely encouraging”, according to managing director Andrew Reddy.

It was previously in Penang Road from 1993 to 1997.

Similarly, business has been on the uptick for casual American restaurant Chili’s at Tanglin Mall since its launch last June. It is brought in by Grandko Restaurants, a subsidiary of Belgarath Investments, which runs 11 Subway sandwich eateries here.

Chili’s was here from 1994 to 1999, and it had as many as four outlets previously in locations such as Orchard Parade Hotel and Boat Quay.

Mr Richard Chan, 38, an engineering manager who revisited Chili’s recently, says: “I like its south-western American food, large portions and reasonable prices, and the new outlet here has surpassed my expectations.”

Apart from these American dining establishments, Nando’s, a Portuguese grilled-chicken chain from South Africa, is also reopening in May at Bugis Junction. The casual restaurant, which was here briefly in 1997 at Marina Square, will be brought in by a new franchisee, Nando’s Malaysia, which opened 32 outlets in Malaysia and owns the rights to open franchises in Singapore.

These restaurants plan to be here for the long haul.

Kopitiam Management plans to open 35 Wendy’s outlets in the next 10 years, with a second branch slated to open at Jurong Point in the first quarter of this year.

Similarly, Chili’s is opening its second restaurant at Resorts World in Sentosa early this year.

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