Michelin-starred soya sauce chicken stall in talks with F&B group to sell recipe for $2m

Mr Chan Hon Meng, owner of Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Barely two months after being awarded a Michelin star, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle has received five offers to buy its recipe and is looking to expand the business into a worldwide chain.

The stall's owner, Mr Chan Hon Meng, 51, tells The Straits Times that over the past month, he has been in talks with five companies to expand his business.

Three of them are in the food-and-beverage sector, including Hong Kong dim sum restaurant chain, Tim Ho Wan. One of them is in the hotel industry and he declined to reveal the background of the last company.

They had either turned up at his stall in Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre with offers or inquired through the local representative of the Michelin Guide.

Mr Chan wants to remain a partner even after selling the recipe. He says: "Michelin has awarded the accolade to me, so it is important that I am still involved in the business."

He has set three criteria for those who are keen to partner him.

First, he is asking for at least $2 million as a "guaranteed cooperation fee" for the recipe for his famed soya sauce chicken and cooking expertise.

He says his asking price is based on the amount that Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint in Upper Paya Lebar Road received when it sold its recipes in 2014 to electronics firm Aztech Group. It was paid $4 million, which included $2 million for the shophouse premises.

On why he thinks his recipe is worth so much, he says: "Even before the Michelin star, my stall is already popular. Now, my business has become more than three times better, with about 160 chickens sold daily."

The second criterion is that the partner must have the resources to expand the brand "all over the world".

Lastly, he says the company needs to ensure that the taste of his soya sauce chicken is replicated and standardised in all the outlets.

Citing fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken as an example, Mr Chan says in Mandarin: "KFC sells chicken and has been successful in ensuring that the taste of its food remains the same throughout the world. I hope to do the same and become the No. 2 chicken eatery chain around the world after it."

Of the five offers, he says he is seriously considering the one from an international food company which meets most of his criteria.

A key reason he wants to expand overseas is the increase in the number of tourists at his eight-year-old stall since its Michelin award in July. He estimates that about 90 per cent of his customers now are tourists.

"If so many people from all over the world are visiting my stall, I think my food can be well-received in other countries too," he says. "It has always been a dream to expand my business overseas and pass it to the next generation."

He learnt how to cook soya sauce chicken from a Hong Kong chef in 1989 when he was working in a Chinese restaurant, and has since made tweaks to the recipe.

As for whether he will continue to run the current Liao Fan stall in Chinatown, he says he will discuss this with his prospective partner.

"Manpower is a longstanding problem in Singapore, so I want to spend some time studying the details and work out a win-win deal for both parties," he told Shin Min Daily News.

He told the Chinese evening daily that he is considering the offer because he is getting older and does not know how long he can continue running the stall. The prospective partner has the relevant experience and are offering generous conditions, including share options, he told Shin Min.

When The Straits Times visited the stall yesterday afternoon, a queue of more than 30 people stretched in front of it, with a waiting time of about two hours.

Some customers feel that the stall's expansion is inevitable, given the overwhelming response to its food since its Michelin award in July.

Ms Aneta Laskowska, 27, a tourist from Poland, who learnt about Liao Fan's star on the television news in Poland, says: "I have been queueing for more than an hour to see how good the chicken rice tastes. If it is good, I will buy it if the stall comes to my country."

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