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Wednesday June 25, 2008

Big Apple sets sights on Asia-Pacific

PETALING JAYA: Homegrown doughnut franchise Big Apple Donuts & Coffee is on an aggressive expansion drive to become a household name in the Asia-Pacific.

Franchisor Big Apple Interasia Sdn Bhd set up the first Big Apple Donuts outlet last May at The Curve in Mutiara Damansara.

Mike Chan with some of the company's freshly made doughnuts.

The target was to have at least one outlet per state in Malaysia, said director Mike Chan.

“Today, we have 18 outlets in the country. Every state has been covered,” Chan told StarBiz.

He said the company would open a new outlet in Johor next month and one each in Penang and Malacca by August.

Most of its outlets are currently in the Klang Valley, where the company hopes to expand even further.

“We are looking at places like Ampang, Puchong, Wangsa Maju and Putrajaya,” Chan said.

He said each outlet was between 800 and 1,500 sq ft and cost about RM1mil.

On the foreign front, the company will open its first outlet in October in Bangkok. It is looking to set up three to five outlets in China by year-end.

“We also plan to start an outlet in the Middle East and are in talks with some parties in Australia and New Zealand,” Chan said.

Big Apple will later this year open an outlet in Miri, which would help fast track its expansion into Brunei.

Chan said Big Apple was different from its competitors because it adopted an “open kitchen” concept when serving its doughnuts.

“All our doughnuts are freshly baked in front of our customers. They are not prepared at a central kitchen and supplied to the outlets like what other doughnut companies are doing,” he said.

As Big Apple's doughnuts need to be prepared fresh, new staff are sent for a training of 30 to 45 days before they start working.

Big Apple's doughnuts come in 25 flavours. Chan said more flavours were in the pipeline, including sugar-free chocolate-coated doughnut.

“We want to introduce more products that are low in calories,” he said.

He said the company also had about 37 flavours in its “R&D lab” waiting to be launched.

On the impact of rising inflation and prices of raw materials, Chan said the company would refrain from increasing the prices of its food and drinks for as long as possible.

“We will only raise our prices once our operational costs become unbearably high. But every company is doing this and not just us,” he said.