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BreadTalk lays out ambitious expansion plans

$67m international HQ officially opened

HANDS-ON APPROACH Mr Tharman, hosted by Mr Quek (in bow tie), at the new BreadTalk international headquarters at Tai Seng Street yesterday. - PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN/THE STRAITS TIMES


BREADTALK wants to more than double its revenue to $1 billion by 2016, and to have more than 2,000 outlets across its business segments by 2018.

The mainboard-listed group behind Toastbox eateries, Food Republic food courts and Din Tai Fung restaurants announced these plans as it officially opened its $67 million international headquarters (BreadTalk IHQ) at 30 Tai Seng Street yesterday.

BreadTalk reported a group revenue of $447 million for 2012 and now has about 850 outlets in 15 countries.

The firm will expand the BreadTalk brand in the key markets of China, Singapore and Thailand, and also explore new markets such as India, Japan and the US.

It will open outlets in Cambodia and Vietnam by the end of this year or next year.

"Whether in Australia or the US, the value of the BreadTalk brand is recognised. But (to enter these markets), we'll have to tweak the product mix such that healthier or harder bread makes up 50-60 per cent," group chairman George Quek said in Mandarin.

Food Republic last year entered the Taiwan market, which has a lot of potential.

Japan could be the next destination for the food court chain, Mr Quek added.

BreadTalk group also holds the Din Tai Fung franchise rights for Singapore and Thailand, and is now in discussion with the firm on working together in other countries. "So there are many platforms for expansion," Mr Quek noted.

The group has invested $8 million in automation to boost productivity. This enabled it to reduce headcount in the central kitchens by 50 per cent and increase output per headcount by more than 150 per cent.

The new central kitchen, which churns out 85,000 pieces of frozen dough daily, is housed in its new headquarters, alongside the group's corporate office, research and development (R&D) labs, training academy and warehousing facilities.

The 10-storey building is designed like a Danish pastry structure by award-winning architect Tan Kay Ngee.

Guest of honour Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday hailed BreadTalk as an example of a significant innovation that created a new market segment.

"It changed the way consumers looked at their daily staple of bread, by using R&D to create new and unique bread designs and flavours. In other words, 'designer breads' that came with a premium," he noted.

Mr Tharman also said that larger firms including multinationals can partner smaller firms, to co-innovate, transfer knowledge and help train specialised manpower.

"This is what the PACT (Partnerships for Capability Transformation) programme aims to encourage. Since April this year, the PACT programme was expanded to include more sectors such as food services," Mr Tharman added.

The DPM announced the launch of a new project under PACT, the Chefmanship Academy by Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) and the Restaurant Association of Singapore. The academy will develop a training programme to improve productivity among food and beverage operators in frontline and backend operations.

"Through this PACT project, local restaurateurs would be able to tap on UFS' expertise and raise their abilities in areas such as menu planning and high volume production cooking," Mr Tharman pointed out.

BreadTalk's shares yesterday closed unchanged at 91 cents.