Foreign cuisine gaining space in Vietnamese restaurant industry

15:53 | 31/05/2018
Not only famous brands from developed countries, but also up-and-coming regional firms are trying to set foot in the Vietnamese food and beverage (F&B) sector via investments, franchising, and opening restaurants.
foreign cuisine gaining space in vietnamese restaurant industry
The Lion City chain has six restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City

Foreigners and F&B startups in Vietnam

According to, Harry Ang, who has been living in Vietnam for 17 years, is the owner of the Lion City chain in Ho Chi Minh City. As an architect, Harry started in Vietnam by selling frog porridge. He is very good at choosing original traditional materials imported from Singapore, India, Japan, and Sri Lanka.

To date, Lion City has six restaurants and hundreds of dishes in the city and has started franchising in Malaysia. Harry evaluated Vietnam, especially Ho Chi Minh City, as a potential market for restaurant chains.

This city is considered the crossroads of the ASEAN culinary cultures. In the past, it was very difficult to find Halal food suitable for Muslim palates, but now there are chains of restaurants catering such dishes in Vietnam.

F&B holds great potential in Vietnam as more and more people want to experience different cuisine and traditional food with regional characteristics.

foreign cuisine gaining space in vietnamese restaurant industry
Tim Scott and Mark Gustafson, founders of Ut Ut and Beer Craft

Two friends, Tim Scott and Mark Gustafson from the US, saw potential in grill cuisine so they decided to open the Ut Ut and Beer Craft restaurant selling grilled pork ribs along with hand-crafted beer, which has quickly become a favourite of young Vietnamese people.

Their fifth restaurant will be launched in June, and they intend to raise the number of establishments to ten before the year is over.

Meanwhile, Vincent and Samuel Maruta noticed the potential of chocolate as the land for cocoa cultivation in Vietnam is very large. Although people advised them that Vietnamese people prefer milk or tea and not the bitterness of chocolate, the two enthusiastic entrepreneurs went ahead to create the unique chocolate brand Marou.

foreign cuisine gaining space in vietnamese restaurant industry
Bean-to-bar Vietnamese chocolate Marou is praised over the world

Since 2011, they tried to produce the first bean-to-bar chocolate from Vietnam, which is made by the same producer from beginning to end, from cocoa beans to chocolate bars. Four years later, Marou was celebrated as a premium chocolate brand all over the world.

The startup of Vincent and Samuel Maruta has placed Vietnam on the world chocolate map, drawing critical acclaim all the way from America.

These are just a few examples of the many foreigners who have come to Vietnam to deal in food, especially their hometown dishes. Vietnam is increasingly picking up fervent trends and cuisine from all over the world.

Foreign funds eye F&B

In 2008, Mekong Capital poured VND2.6 billion ($114,540) into the massively successful Golden Gate restaurant chain.

In 2016, Mekong Enterprise Fund III invested $6.9 million into the company owning the Wrap & Roll restaurant chain. Then, Wrap & Roll invested into Ut Ut and Beer Craft with plans to expand the chain to ten restaurants.

During the last ten years, restaurant chains from South Korea, Thailand, China, Japan, and fast food brands from the US have been crowding into Vietnam via franchises. Representatives of giants in this sector such as Little Caesars, Jumbo Group, The Boiling Crab, and Element Fresh have come to Vietnam to grant franchising rights and expand their food and beverage restaurant chains.

To date, the Vietnamese cuisine register has been enriched by names like BBQ Chicken, Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Gong Cha, and Ding Tea.

According to a report, households spend approximately 50 per cent of their total expenses on food, and it is estimated to rise to 61.6 per cent in the time to come, which implies there is great potential in the sector in Vietnam.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, as of September 2017, 184 franchising deals were signed with foreign brands in Vietnam, covering a multitude of fields of food, beverage, fashion, education, retail, and healthcare services. F&B is the most vibrant franchise sector with 71 deals.

By Nguyen Huong

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