Will Group eyes rights for Chatime in Singapore

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PETALING JAYA: Will Group Sdn Bhd, the master franchisee for Chatime in Malaysia, is eyeing the rights for Chatime in Singapore a year after it opens its first outlet there.

Chatime Malaysia group managing director Aliza Ali said it has obtained the green light from Chatime franchisor La Kaffa International Co Ltd to enter the Singapore market, where it will open two Chatime outlets in shopping malls this year and an outlet in Jewel Changi Airport in 2019 to gauge the market there.

“It (Singapore master franchisee) is something that we’re eyeing but let us prove ourselves to the principal (La Kaffa) first. If they see that we can manage the market in Singapore and if they’re happy with our performance, we will talk about the possibility (of being the Singaporean master franchisee),” she told SunBiz.

Aliza noted that there are existing bubble tea players that are doing well in Singapore, such as Koi, Gong Cha and LiHo. There is no Chatime in Singapore yet. Its rival Tealive is also not in Singapore, but has ventured into Vietnam and announced plans to go into Australia.

“This (Singapore) is a new market, we can’t just go in and want the master franchisee rights without showing that we are going to do it well. We have to open (outlets) first then only we can see how the market is. For us to jump in to be the master franchisee and put our investments there without knowing how we want to move ahead, wouldn’t be a smart move either,” she explained.

Aliza added that franchisors will usually save the exclusivity of a territory for a franchisee, while it markets the brand there. Once the franchisee has opened a certain number of outlets for a period of time, the franchisor will then award the master franchisee rights to the selected franchisee.

While Singapore is a feasible venture for Will Group, the bubble tea company is also entering the Middle East market, with plans to open Chatime outlets in Mecca and Medina this year.

There is already a Chatime master franchisee in the Middle East in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah) hence Will Group is aiming for Mecca and Medina where Chatime is yet to be present, under a sub-franchisee arrangement.

“We would like to have some exclusivity there (in the Middle East) but we’re aware that there is already a master franchisee so any planning would have to be done out of respect for the master franchisee there. It has to be something that the master franchisee is comfortable to grant us. With the help of La Kaffa, we would like to get our interest across to the master franchisee there,” said Aliza.

Its expansion plan into Singapore and Middle East comes after Chatime Malaysia obtained the halal food certification from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia for its menu, paving the way for new avenues of business. It has outlined a five-year RM100 million expansion plan targeting over 150 outlets in Malaysia and internationally.

Will Group was offered the role of master franchisee for Chatime in Malaysia following a dispute that escalated between La Kaffa and ex-master franchisee Loob Holding Sdn Bhd last year, that saw the franchisor terminating the master franchisee contract with Loob.


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