Many of us dream of moving to a tropical paradise such as Thailand. However, unless you are independently wealthy or do not need to work for the rest of your life, you can only afford to stay there for a limited time before you have to return to the real world and start earning a living again.
But what if you could create a business in the place of your dreams that could provide you with a great living? What kind of business, you might ask? How about a fast food franchise, such as a pizza restaurant?
If this sounds like a great idea, it is, but someone already beat you to it, 36 years ago. That’s right, William Heinecke opened the first Pizza Hut in Asia in 1980, in Pattaya, Thailand. With the high volume of Western tourists that visit Pattaya every year, a Pizza Hut there could never fail for lack of business, but would Thais like pizza enough that Heinecke could open more locations nationwide and reap enormous profits from that untapped market?
Thailand is the only country in South East Asia that was never colonized. It was permitted to serve as a buffer between England’s colonies in the West and South, and France’s colonies in the North and West. While Vietnam has enjoyed bread and cheese introduced by the French for several centuries, foods like bread, cheese and pizza did not make it across the Mekong River to Thailand. Most were unknown in Thailand up until the last few decades with the influx of Western tourists.
Pizza was not expected to do well in Thailand but to Heinecke took a chance, obtaining the franchise rights for all of Thailand from U.S. based Yum, to his good fortune. The people of Thailand loved pizza and Heinecke opened 116 locations in Thailand from 1980 to 2001. In 2001, Heinecke had a disagreement with Yum and rebranded all of his Pizza Hut locations under his own brand, Pizza Company. He spent five million USD, which paid off big, giving him an instant market share of 70% for fast food pizza restaurants in Thailand. He introduced other fast food franchise changes to Thailand as well, such as Mister Donut, Burger King and Swenson, which can be found in every major city in Thailand today.
Heinecke became a Thai citizen in 1991, and now owns a dozens of hotels and fast food franchises under his corporation, Minor International, or MINT. MINT is one of Asia’s largest casual dining and quick-service restaurant companies, operating over 1,800 outlets in 19 countries under The Pizza Company, Thai Express, The Coffee Club, Ribs and Rumps, Riverside, BreadTalk, Swensen’s, Sizzler, Dairy Queen and Burger King.
While Heinecke may have the pizza market cornered in Thailand, there is always room for something new and different. If you have some money to invest and have always dreamed of a life in a tropical paradise, consider a fast food franchise in a heavily touristic location. Once you have one or two going well in these areas, start expanding into local Thai markets. The cost of living and labor is very affordable in Thailand. Your dollars can go a long way there, and with good planning and hard work, you just might end up a Billionaire like William Heinecke.