Din Tai Fung brand strong enough to grow in Europe, says BreadTalk chief as first outlet opens in London


THERE may be no shortage of Chinese restaurants in London, but the fact that there is "not a lot of authentic Taiwanese cuisine" was one of the main reasons why BreadTalk took the plunge and decided to introduce Din Tai Fung to the British capital.

"This brand is (nearly) 50 years old, we have a Michelin Star awarded in Hong Kong. We feel it is strong enough to grow in this part of the world," said BreadTalk's CEO Henry Chu in an interview at the Taiwanese restaurant's official opening in London's Covent Garden district last Wednesday.

"We've had many tourists and people on Facebook asking us when Din Tai Fung was coming to London. Londoners travel far and wide, so they have a chance to know and experience the brand elsewhere. We came to London because we know there's a demand."

When asked if he was worried about the impact of Britain's impending exit from the European Union - if it ever takes place, that is - Mr Chu said one concern would be the availability of manpower in London.

"In F&B, we use a lot of manpower. We may feel the crunch, but we also try our best to bring in staff from Taiwan or Singapore to support our day-to-day operations. It's not easy to hire foreign labour in London, the regulations are very tough," he said.

"We work closely with the authorities to find opportunities to bring in experienced staff. It's also important for us to hire locals, including Londoners, and hopefully the Din Tai Fung brand is attractive enough for them to work for us."

This is the 153rd Din Tai Fung in the world. London will have another branch next year. Singapore has 22 of these restaurants, and three more will open in 2019. Likewise for Thailand, which currently has five restaurants and another three on the way next year.

Din Tai Fung's maiden foray into Europe is spearheaded by Taster Food UK Limited, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of BreadTalk Group.

Taster Food's fully-owned subsidiary Together Inc (50.5 per cent) is in a joint venture with Din Tai Fung Restaurant Co (15 per cent), Fairy Rise Development (15 per cent), Stour Crema (7.5 per cent), UK partner Tristan Hoare (7.5 per cent) and Taiwanese partner Song Yih (4.5 per cent).

Among the many VIPs present at the Covent Garden restaurant's grand opening was Din Tai Fung chairman Yang Chi Hua, the son of Yang Bingyi who founded the restaurant in Taiwan more than four decades ago.

The 8,000 square-foot restaurant has the signature open-concept kitchen where customers can watch chefs prepare the steamed dumplings by wrapping the ingredients in a skin and pleating it with a minimum of 18 folds.

The other markets where Din Tai Fung has a footprint are Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, the US and the United Arab Emirates.

READ MORE: Beyond Asia, BreadTalk has sights set on Europe and US