Thu, Dec 02, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Stores want you out of the kitchen

LUNAR NEW YEAR Four convenience-store chains unveiled their set-dinner offerings for the holiday after teaming up once again to take on rival President Chain

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Athens Olympic gold medalists Chu Mu-yen and Chen Shih-hsin (fifth and sixth from left), pose with eight famous chefs promoting quick and easy Lunar New Year dishes being offered by the OK, High-Life, Niko Mart and Family Mart convenience-store chains.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Preparing Lunar New Year dishes no longer has to be a dreaded chore as convenience store chains and five-star hotels are going all out to offer various combinations of Chinese dishes for customers.

The take-away feast market is estimated to be worth NT$2 billion (US$60 million) this year, an astonishing figure since the market is only four years old.

Looking to expand their market shares for such an important holiday, four of the nation's convenience store operators -- Taiwan FamilyMart Co (全家便利), Hi-Life International Co (萊爾富), OK Convenience Stores and Taiwan Nikomart Co (福客多) -- have teamed up again this year to compete with their larger rival President Chain Store Corp (統一超商), which runs the third-largest 7-Eleven franchise in the world.

"A large number of customers have become familiar with the growing trend of buying New Year dishes to avoid hassles in the kitchen," Banson Peng (彭傳璋), Hi-Life's marketing manager, said at a press conference yesterday as he pre-sented three sets of family meals that will be available for customers to order at the four chains' 3,850 outlets.

The chains joined together to offer pre-paid Lunar New Year feasts last year, earning NT$179.5 million in revenue as a result.

Now that they have added vegetarian meals to their line-up, they expect revenues to grow by 35 percent to NT$245 million.

While the four chains are offering meals priced between NT$1,988 and NT$3,888 per set, President Chain is offering a choice of five set meals priced from NT$3,088 to NT$4,688. President Chain justifies its higher prices by the use of fancier ingredients, such as abalone and shark's fin.

"With demand growing rapidly each year, we aim to provide more refined choices to rival those of five-star hotels," said Ray Chen (陳瑞堂), chief officer of President Chain's marketing group.

Chen said the company expects Lunar New Year meals sold through 7-Eleven's 3,674 outlets to achieve an annual growth of 50 percent to NT$150 million.

While the microwaved meals have proven popular with many people, some have complained that the dishes lose their freshness and taste in the re-heating process and so have turned to five-star hotels for alternatives, said Beth Tsai (蔡惠茹), assistant manager of promotions and public relations at Grand Formosa Regent Taipei.

The hotel, which offers eight-person meals for NT$8,888, expects to see its Lunar New Year business double to more than NT$5 million.

The Sherwood Taipei also expects to see its Lunar New Year meal revenues increase by 20 percent. It is offering sets of meals priced between NT$6,880 and NT$9,880, said Paulina Lin (林婉君), assistant public relations manager.

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