Pizza Hut planning for 200 restaurants in Thailand

The new Thai franchisee of American chain Pizza Hut, the first American pizza chain in Thailand, announced last week that it would invest about $30 million to open over 100 new outlets across the Kingdom during the next four years to reach its goal of owning and operating 200 restaurants and doubling its revenues in that time span.

PH Capital bought the Thai rights to the Pizza Hut franchise in June from Yum! Brands. PH took ownership of 92 Pizza Hut restaurants that employ over 2,000 people. PH Capital is a joint venture between Thoresen Thai Agencies Plc., a shipping firm, and PM Capital, owned by the Mahagitsiri family, which has a long track record of managing global food brands in Thailand such as Nescafe. The family also has interests in Thoresen Thai Agencies. Thoresen Thai holds 70 percent of PH Capital, while PM Capital holds 30 percent.

“Our Mahagitsiri family and Yum! Brands share the same vision, which is to invest, expand and grow the business for the long term,” said Ausana Mahagitsiri, director of PH Capital.“We will increase the number of Pizza Hut restaurants to 108 by the end of December this year and to increase total number of staff to about 3,000. About new 30 Pizza Hut restaurants will be opened next year.”

She added that her group purchased Pizza Hut because it believes the pizza market in Thailand still has room for strong growth, especially in the provinces. Roughly 80 percent of Pizza Hut restaurants are located in Bangkok. Few competitors have the resources to challenge Pizza Hut in the pizza quick serve restaurant category, she said.

The leading competitor is The Pizza Company, a Thai pizza chain founded by American-born Thai citizen and tycoon Bill Heinecke. Heinecke brought Pizza Hut to Thailand in the 1980s despite the conventional wisdom that Thais would not eat pizza because they don’t like dairy or bread. But Heinecke’s hunch proved correct and Pizza Hut became very popular. Heinecke’s success marked the beginning of Western fast food in Thailand. He later sold his interests so he could develop his own chain.

Ausana said that the quick serve restaurant business in Thailand would grow between 2 and 4 percent this year, but that Pizza Hut would register higher growth than that, although she declined to make any projections.

The new owners would still work with YUM! Brands because Yum! operates Pizza Hut in several other Asian countries and could offer solid research and advice on markets, trends and consumer preferences.