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5 Things You Should Know About BreadTalk

BreadTalkLogoIf you’ve popped into Toast Box for your morning coffee and kaya toast, grabbed a bun at BreadTalk, prawn noodles at Food Republic or savoured the dumplings in Din Tai Fung you’ll have experienced the products of BreadTalk Group Limited (SGX:5DA).

A Singapore story…

BreadTalk’s founder George Quek grew up in Hougang, Singapore – a shy boy who excelled at art. After completing his National Service in 1982, Quek headed to Taiwan to further his art education.

However, after economic reasons made him seek out a living instead, he turned to selling the spun sugar sweet “Dragon-beard candy”. This proved popular and with a loan from his father and some intensive marketing, Kwek and his wife Katherine had soon set up five kiosks in Taipei shopping malls.

Kwek then decided to introduce Singaporean favourites “Bak chor mee” (minced pork noodles) and “Fishball noodles” to the Taiwanese market under the name “Singa”. Despite hard work Singa had little business and had to close three months later.

Chicken rice

Undeterred, Kwek added “Satay” and “Chicken rice” to the menu and employed an experienced chef who adapted the recipes to suit Taiwanese tastes. This time Singa was a success, and grew to be a popular chain with 21 outlets.

After selling up and starting successful ice-cream parlours in Shanghai, the Kweks returned home to Singapore in 1993 – to start up the Food Junction foodcourt chain with some Taiwanese partners, offering “restaurant food at foodcourt prices”.

The 14-strong foodcourt chain earned Kwek the moniker “The Foodcourt King” and he turned to creating Singapore’s hugely successful, Japanese-style boutique bakery – BreadTalk.

But did you know…

  1. BreadTalk’s signature, “Floss Bun” was created by Katherine Quek (BreadTalk’s Finance Director). Its mix of a western-style sweet cream-filled bun coated with a generous layer of the Asian ingredient pork floss proved very popular – one is sold every 10 seconds worldwide.
  2. BreadTalk bakeries do not use preservatives, believing in only offering fresh products.
  3. BreadTalk holds the Singapore franchise for Din Tai Fung – whose signature dish is, of course, the soup dumplings “Xiao long bao” (translated as “little basket buns”).  Hidden inside the dumplings are cubes of chicken/pork/cured ham broth gel – which, when steamed, melt to create the delicious soup. Each dumpling has a 6cm diameter, weighs 21g and has 18 pleats in its wrapper.
  4. Din Tai Fung’s founder Yang Bing-yi moved to Taiwan from China’s Shanxi Province as a young man. He started out delivering, and then selling cooking oil, and named his shop in honour of his first employer, Heng Tai Fung. When, in 1972, tinned oil took off, sales plummeted. Yang and his wife took the advice of a friend and starting making and selling steamed dumplings, which proved so popular they soon converted the shop to become the first Din Tai Fung restaurant. In 1993, it was named one of the world’s top ten restaurants by the New York Times.
  5. Din Tai Fung, Taiwan employs quality control staff, whose role is to patrol its restaurants to ensure tables are kept clean and condiment containers are polished to a sparkle.

Today, the company is keen on creating “4-in-1” retail spaces, showcasing its F&B brands such as Ramenplay, BreadTalk, Toast Box and Din Tai Fung together to create a strong brand presence and has recently opened its new iconic headquarters in Paya Lebar.

The BreadTalk Group currently has 746 outlets and over 7,000 employees throughout Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, and the Middle East.

Shareholders may be interested to know that those tasty Floss Buns certainly make some profit, as Bakery contributes over 52% to the Group’s total revenue. BreadTalk’s upmarket food courts – Food Republic contribute around 29%, with its restaurants coming in at nearly 19%.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Alison Hunt doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.