MANY people wonder how restaurant sales were for this Chinese New Year season. A random poll among the major ones indicated that they have seen significant increases in sales.
Our Chinese restaurant business has increased this Chinese New Year period and is better than what was achieved in the same period last year, said TT Resources Bhd head of marketing Au Kok Huei.
He said the restaurants received strong table bookings during the period: each table had two rounds of bookings per session at different times in order to accommodate all the restaurants' customers.
The company has 30 restaurants which include the Tai Thong Group of Restaurants, Four Seasons Group of Restaurants, Oriental Pearl Restaurants.
Au said seven of its restaurants were open on the eve and first day of Chinese New Year while 15 were open on the second day to capitalise on the festive season.
We have a centralised sales enquiry system and sales hotline that is available 24 hours a day. This system has a list of bookings of all our restaurants and customers can be referred to the outlets which are not full yet, he said, adding that this increases the restaurants' possibility of closing sales.
Au said the company's current focus was on the Tai Thong and Four Seasons Group of Restaurants.
We want to brand the restaurants separately to cater for the different segment of customers.
Tai Thong will be more traditional with a warm and cosy family atmosphere while Four Seasons will have a more contemporary and corporate style environment, he said.
Au said TT Resources would be opening at least another two outlets this year.
He added that the company intends to further develop its wedding banquet division as it is one of its main contributors to turnover.
Another segment to tap would be the Malay market.
Nine of our restaurants are halal and if we can fully tap this market, the growth in turnover would be double or even triple, he said.
Six Happiness Holding Sdn Bhd which manages the chain of Six Happiness Restaurants recorded a four-fold increase in the number of customers during the Chinese New Year season compared to its usual off-peak crowd.
We expect the Chinese New Year period, which is 15 days before and 15 days after the first day of the new year (Jan 12 to Feb 15), to contribute about 20% to the company's annual turnover, said chief executive director Tan Tong Heng.
He said the company is cashing in on the Chinese New Year season by staying open especially during the eve and first day of the Chinese New Year and offering special menus to its customers.
He added that business from annual company dinners to usher in the Chinese New Year has been decreasing for the past 5 years due to the economy. The trend is moving towards reunion dinners and affordable set menu.
Although competition is becoming more intense, Tan is confident that the company's leadership in the banquet category would give it a competitive edge.
We specialise in wedding functions and it contributes 45% to turnover, making it the main contributor, he said.
With this, he said the company is targeting to increase its turnover by about 8% to RM38mil this year.
On expansion plans, Tan said Six Happiness is looking at Johor Baru and Ipoh to expand further.
Location is very important and once we find a suitable location, we will open more outlets, he added.
The company opened its first halal chinese restaurant, Empress Garden in Shah Alam in December last year.
According to Tan, the restaurant is very up-market focussing on abalone and sharksfin dishes.
Besides offering affordable abalone and sharksfin dishes, we intend to cater to the non-Chinese community who want to taste chinese cuisine, he quipped. Six Happiness currently has seven restaurants in the Klang Valley.
The Esquire Kitchen Sdn Bhd achieved a 10% growth in Chinese New Year sales in 2003 compared to last year.
Although we were closed for about four days, the number of diners who frequented our restaurants increased by about 10%, said managing director Wong Nam Loong.
He said this could be due to the fact that there was no price increase in its menu.
He added that more households would rather celebrate by eating out during the season.
More office workers tend to have lunches in restaurants to celebrate the new year too.
Esquire Kitchen's home-style Shanghainese and Sichuanese dishes are not easily available anywhere and at such reasonable prices.
We want to cater for a niche market looking for such dishes at affordable prices, with quick service and high quality, he said.
Wong said there had been a lot of new entrants in the market despite the slowdown in the economy and the threat of impending war between the US and Iraq.
The restaurant business is saturated but there is still room for niche players.
According to Wong, Esquire Kitchen intends to increase its marketing expenditure and invest about RM500,000 into its advertising and promotions in order to make its restaurants a household name.
The company plans to open three outlets in the Klang Valley as part of its expansion plans.
Wong said Esquire Kitchen had also acquired the Nam Heong Restaurant chain, which specialises in Hainanese chicken rice last year.
Chicken rice is an enormously popular dish and if it is done well it can appeal to a lot of people.
Nam Heong is very established and has been around since 1938, he said, adding that the company plans to open six Nam Heong outlets this year.
Esquire Kitchen currently has a total of 18 outlets in the country.
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