Carl’s Jr. opens first unit in Vietnam

The first Carl’s Jr. located in Vietnam opened Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City, part of the quick-service burger chain’s ongoing strategic plan to double the number of international units within the next five years.

Carl’s Jr. parent company, the Carpinteria, Calif.-based CKE Restaurants Inc., said the unit is the first of 25 Carl’s Jr. locations planned for Vietnam, set to open during the next six years. It’s also one of the first Western burger chains to open in the market, the company noted.

CKE, which between Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s operates or franchises 3,147 restaurants, of which 342 are in international markets, also plans to enter Indonesia later this year. The company has entered into an agreement with PT Fortune Foods Limited to open 25 Carl’s Jr. units in Jakarta. Carl’s Jr. franchisees currently operate in China, Singapore, Malaysia, and American Samoa.

The burger chain franchisor is among a growing number of restaurant companies that are aggressively growing overseas as domestic growth remains stymied by the challenging economy and the maturity of the U.S. restaurant market.

Yum! Brands Inc., for example, has about 3,500 locations in China alone, with plans to open about 500 more. The parent to the KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut brands also opened its first Taco Bell in India earlier this year and the brand also is scheduled to open in the United Kingdom next month for the first time since a failed attempt to enter that market in the early 1980s.

In May, the first dual-branded Wendy’s/Arby’s location — two brands owned by Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc. in Atlanta — opened in Dubai, where a franchisee plans to grow 80 units over the next decade. Domino’s Pizza Inc., which operates in 60 countries, recently announced plans to open its pizza delivery restaurants in Germany.

The Carl’s Jr. restaurants in Vietnam will be operated by Mesa Asia Pacific Trading Services Company Limited, whose parent company is Mesa Group Inc., a distribution company that has branched out into food and beverage, media and real estate development.

“We are very pleased to welcome Mesa Group Inc. as a part of the CKE team,” said Andrew Puzder, CKE’s chief executive. “The strength of our brand matched with Mesa’s expertise and knowledge of the Vietnam market gives us confidence that we will have a bright future in the market.

“The growth in the Vietnamese consumer market is truly remarkable and we wanted to take this opportunity along with the Mesa Group to employ a ‘first-mover’ strategy in our segment,” he said.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]