Mad for Garlic, a Seoul-based restaurant chain that has built its reputation on its garlic-themed Italian dishes and unique, Middle Ages-inspired gothic ambience, is ramping up its efforts to go global.
“Going global is crucial to achieve our ultimate goal of becoming a ‘global dining leader.’ We also hope to help elevate brand awareness toward Korea-made restaurant brands,” said Stanley Choo, director of overseas business and franchise sales at Sun at Food, the operator of Mad for Garlic.
|Stanley Choo, overseas business and franchise sales director for Mad for Garlic. (Sun at Food)|
As the name indicates, Mad for Garlic is all about dishes based on the spicy and pungent vegetable. For some, it may sound like an odd ingredient to specialize in, but for the restaurant, it was a formula for success.
“There may be some who can’t get past the garlic, but that’s where our strength is,” Choo said cheerfully, adding that more and more people around the world are consuming garlic for health reasons.
Currently, Mad for Garlic directly operates 27 outlets in Korea and two in Singapore, while it has signed two franchise deals in Indonesia and the Philippines.
“Korea has paid high royalties to use other global brands. We want to turn this around by selling franchises under our Mad for Garlic brand so that we are the ones earning the royalty fees,” Choo said, adding the company would focus more on franchise deals in overseas markets.
The first Mad for Garlic restaurant made its debut in 2001 in the posh district of Apgujeong-dong in southern Seoul, where all the global franchise restaurant brands crowded to lure trend-setters in the area.
Together with the unique brand name and menu that includes unheard-of dishes such as the Dracula Killer (sliced baguette served with marinated garlic), Garlic Snowing Pizza and Garlic Hug Steak, the diner has gained wide popularity here.
And this unique culinary concept centering on garlic will hopefully appeal to customers outside Korea, Choo said.
The company’s first global project came in 2008 in Singapore when it opened a store in the Suntec City building in Marina Center. Customer reaction was more positive than expected.
“Singapore is a test-bed market for the food business in Asia as people from around the world, with tastes for dining, are living and working there,” he said. “The first store is now one of the top three outlets in terms of lunchtime sales.”
Based on this success, the company has expanded its presence in other Southeast Asian countries.
Currently, talks for new franchise outlets are underway in Malaysia, Thailand, India and Mexico. The company aims to enter 10 countries to cover the U.S. and Middle East by 2017.
Choo admitted Mad for Garlic, like any other Korean company that has ventured abroad, is constantly faced with trials and errors.
“We are always working in different cultural backgrounds, and more recently tougher laws are being put in place to protect homegrown companies. That’s why we invest so much into localization, while at the same time maintaining our business consistency,” the sales director said.
As part of these efforts, the company has developed 15 country-specific menus.
For instance, Mad for Garlic now offers more chicken-based menus for Southeast Asian customers, which led to a 15 to 20 percent growth in sales.
By Lee Ji-yoon (email@example.com)