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Yum Brands’ The Habit Burger Grill eyes Australian expansion

Asia-Pacific general manager Yang Ming Ong named the country as one of the chain’s seven target markets in the region.

Australia is officially on the cards for The Habit Burger Grill, the American fast casual chain that Yum! Brands acquired nearly two years ago.

In an exclusive interview with QSR Media, Asia-Pacific general manager Yang Ming Ong named the country as one of the chain’s seven target markets in the region.

The chain, offering a “better burger” proposition, recently concluded its long-term strategic plan and set a goal to establish 10,000 stores globally, a third of which will be in Asia-Pacific.

“Australia is a market that Yum has had a lot of success in, especially with the KFC brand. So, we feel that there's a lot of learning and understanding of the market that we can leverage,” he said, adding that he sees operational challenges such as higher labour costs as an opportunity for the brand.

Ong clarified that Australia will be one the later markets they will enter into, arguing that they need “to take a bit more time to understand the Australian customer.” Habit, he said, has already conducted focus groups in Melbourne and Sydney, amongst other cities.

The executive also sees the competitive segment as a signal for Aussies’ demand for the category.

“The number of players really tells us the appetite for burgers that's there,” he said.

Currently, The Habit Burger Grill has grown to over 300 restaurants in 14 U.S. states, including seven restaurants in China and five more outlets in Cambodia.

Restaurant openings in the region will commence in 2023, using this year for finishing market research, finalising brand positioning, conversations with prospect franchisees, and building its support centre roster in Singapore. A new design for international builds is also in the works.

“With the scale and the knowledge of Yum in many international markets, it gives us confidence that we have a good chance of success,” Ong said.

China is envisioned to have over 1,000 in the long-term. Other markets Habit is looking to first enter into are Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea—a target since 2019, prior to the chain’s acquisition.

(Also read: The Habit Burger Grill is fired up and ready to start its race to 10,000 restaurants)

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