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Mon, May 13, 2002 - Page 19 News List

Manchester Utd plans to open a restaurant chain


Never mind that David Beckham and his fellow Red Devils teammates from Manchester United Football Club finished without a trophy for the first time in four years.

The club's failure to defend their domestic title and win Europe's premier competition, the Champions League. is not going to hurt their appeal among soccer-mad Asians, Manchester United Food and Beverage Concepts (MUFB) said.

The newly-formed Singapore company believes its plans to open a chain of family restaurants across the region themed after the world's most famous soccer club will be a resounding success.

So confident is MUFB of the Red Devils' seemingly unshakeable popularity in this part of the world that it has set a target to open at least 100 restaurants over the next 10 years.

The first two outlets are expected to be ready for business in Singapore and Beijing by the end of the year.

Even the region's inability to return to pre-1997 crisis days of heady economic growth is not seen as a stumbling block to MUFB's plans.

"We see explosive growth opportunities for this type of casual style [dining] concept, especially in China," Ricky Goh, who will manage the MUFB restaurant chain, said.

"With the popularity of football games, we have the opportunity to grow this [restaurant chain] rapidly. We will ride on the good name of Man U," he said.

Last week, MUFB announced it received the exclusive franchise from the English club to own and run the restaurants bearing the Red Devils' emblem.

The restaurant chain is to be branded "Manchester United REDS Cafe Restaurants" after the color of the club's famous home-game strip at Old Trafford stadium.

Club chairman Peter Kenyon said Asia presents a lucrative market, given the large fan base throughout the region.

"Asia represents one of our most important markets with over 20 million fans," Kenyon said in a press statement.

"The exciting new cafe and family-style restaurant concept we are unveiling today is just the latest step in the development of our activities in the Far East," he said.

Beckham, who will captain England at the World Cup finals, and several of his teammates are household names in the region.

Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and India are also in the expansion plans but China is set to be the central plank of the restaurant chain.

"China has a huge population and increasing affluence and consumer spending and we think this recipe will go down very well there," said MUFB chairman Peter Lim.

According to Goh, the Western restaurant chain is pitched at Asia's growing pool of affluent middle-class families.

A family of four in Singapore will pay an average S$14 (US$7.77) each to have a meal at the outlet.

Apart from the typical Western fare like fish and chips, pasta and pizza, the menu will include local dishes of the country where the restaurant is located, Goh said.

Each restaurant is projected to generate an average of about US$1.3 million in revenues annually, Goh said, adding confidently that the chain hopes to break even in the first year of operation.

Club spokesman Paddy Harverson said the outlets would be small, informal restaurants aimed at young families.

"They'll be relatively straightforward, obviously branded with Manchester United, lots of pictures and posters and TVs showing games etc," Harverson said.

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