Asian franchise restaurants flock to British Columbia

Province’s heady mix of Asian cultures and abundant natural food draws chains from Southeast Asia, China and Japan

Western Investor
August 29, 2017

holy crab owner
Henri William, co-owner and chef at the Holy Crab on Robson Street, Vancouver. | Rob Kruyt


Metro Vancouver has become ripe as the landing spot for a new type of import: overseas restaurant franchises.

The latest example of a new restaurant making its way to Vancouver is the Holy Crab, a Louisiana-style seafood eatery that originated in Indonesia and now counts a number of locations across the Southeast Asian nation.

The Vancouver franchise on Robson Street opened in February and has since developed a steady stream of diners who come for southern U.S. cuisine with a pinch of Southeast Asia. The twist is a unique proposition that’s central to its market strategy, said co-owner/chef Henri William.

“The Asian community here in Vancouver is quite significant, so it was one of the reasons why we decided to come here because we do have a touch of Asian taste in our sauces,” said William, an Indonesian native who moved to Vancouver in 2003.

In recent years, a number of Asian food chains have made landings in Vancouver. Most have been franchises, but some – like the Holy Crab – are wholly or partially owned branch locations for the holding companies that also own the Asia portion of their business.

Some of the most prominent recent examples include Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, which opened a second store in January on West Broadway after the success of its inaugural Robson location. The restaurant, which often has long lines stretching from its entrance during mealtime, is part of a global franchise network started by ramen chef Hitoshi Hatanaka in Asahikawa, Japan, in the 1980s.

Today, Santouka’s holding company, About Co., counts 32 locations around the world.

Another big player in overseas franchised restaurants is Taiwanese cuisine, with restaurants like Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle having locations in Richmond, West Vancouver and the University of British Columbia. More recently, Taiwanese tea retailer Chatime began expanding into B.C. with Vancouver and Surrey stores.

Copyright © Western Investor

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